Charlotte County staff continues to work to ensure the Tampa Bay Rays will be back at Charlotte Sports Park for spring training, Commissioner Chris Constance said after a Rays representative presented the county with a $1 million check for Hurricane Ian recovery efforts.
The presentation was made Tuesday during the board of commissioners’ meeting.
“Over the past year, we were so impressed with the commission, the administration and the staff we work closely with,” said Robbie Artz, the Rays’ vice president of planning and development.
He applauded the county for keeping its focus on the community amidst all the challenges of the last year and said the Rays Baseball Foundation was pleased to make such a substantial donation earlier in the year in support of the community.
Constance said the gift from the Rays’ foundation wasn’t the only help the team provided. Shortly after the hurricane, the baseball organization took over restoring all of the county’s baseball fields, an effort Constance said was worth “multimillions.”
As cameras clicked, County Administrator Hector Flores, the county’s head groundskeeper Dan Moeller, Artz and Constance posed with the oversized check.
The financial impact of the Rays’ presence during spring training is significant.
Sean Walter, sales/sports business development director for Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach Visitor & Convention Bureau, provided figures from a 2022 report. Research Data Services Inc., which culled the data, showed the total impact of fans attending Rays spring training in 2022, brought in nearly $6.1 million.
Some stayed overnight, booking 2,600 rooms that season.
Besides staying in hotels and buying tickets for the game, other expenditures included dining out, transportation and shopping locally.
The research study also surveyed those who stayed overnight, and 71.4% said attending a Rays game was a primary factor in bringing them to Charlotte County.
Meanwhile, work continues at Charlotte Sports Park, 2300 El Jobean Road, in Port Charlotte.
The Rays used the ESPN Wide World of Sports facility in Kissimmee earlier this year for early spring workouts and one game against the New York Yankees before playing the rest of its 2023 home spring training games at its regular season home of Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
Brian Gleason, spokesman for the county, provided an update on the park’s progress. “As work continues to move forward at the sports park, we are nearing completion of the major league clubhouse. The storefronts and some minor interior repairs are all that remain.”
At the administration building, or Building A, the rooftop air conditioning units have been replaced, and the roof replacement is nearing completion.
Roof repairs at the concession stands and ticket sales area have been completed. Minor interior repairs remain in the ticket sales area.
The damaged roof at the press tower/team store building is being removed, and the dry-in process has begun.
The stadium and all practice fields suffered damage from the hurricane. Since, they have been refurbished and will be in playing condition.
Overall, the Charlotte Sports Park repairs are currently on track for completion prior to Spring Training 2024, Gleason said.