MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL IN TAMPA BAY
(Senate - March 13, 1995)

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[Page S3827]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


                   MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL IN TAMPA BAY

  Mr. GRAHAM. Madam President, I rise today to commemorate the birth of 
one of baseball's two newest members, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The 
Tampa Bay community was awarded a franchise last Thursday and will 
commence play in 1998. This is a very important and welcome, celebrated 
event for our State and particularly for the 2 million citizens of the 
Tampa Bay area who have been waiting a long, long time for baseball to 
come in the summer.
  For many years, the Tampa Bay area has been home to spring training 
baseball, and for many years there has been the hope and expectation 
that baseball would not terminate as the teams left to begin the 
regular season. That expectation will now be soon realized. This comes 
after many years of effort. The quest for a major league team began in 
1977 with the formation of the Pinellas Sports Authority, an 
organization that has had as its goal to bring a major league franchise 
to the Tampa Bay area.
  Since that time, there have been efforts to secure seven different 
franchises. In each case, there was the hope and the expectation that 
the franchise would be relocated to the Tampa Bay area, and then for a 
variety of reasons that hope was crushed.
  The latest attempt occurred several years ago when an actual contract 
was signed for the relocation of the San Francisco Giants to Tampa Bay, 
and this contract was subsequently canceled by action of the other 
major league teams.
  During the course of this activity, working with the various series 
of major league baseball commissioners, the city determined that it was 
in its interest and would advance its potential as a major league 
franchise by proceeding to construct a state of the art domed stadium, 
which has now been completed, which is utilized for other sports 
activities and which stands ready with modifications and final 
refinements to be the home to the new Tampa Bay Devil Rays professional 
team.
  In achieving this success, there were many people who were active. I 
would like to particularly express my appreciation to the managing 
general partner of the new team, Mr. Vince Naimoli, who, over a period 
of setbacks and frustrations, remained constant in his commitment to 
bring major league baseball to Tampa Bay. There have been many 
officials with the Saint Petersburg city government who have been 
active in helping to realize this objective.
  I should like to recognize Saint Petersburg City Administrator Rick 
Dodge, who, from the very beginning, has played a crucial role in 
helping to move toward the completion of the stadium and maintaining a 
high level of community support behind the effort to receive a major 
league franchise. He is illustrative of dozens of others--elected 
officials, city administration officials, and the citizens of Pinellas 
County--who have worked so hard to bring this to a successful 
realization.
  Madam President, we are proud of the recognition of this awarded 
franchise to the important position which the State of Florida plays in 
major league professional athletics. With this award, our State will 
now have nine major league franchises in baseball, football, 
basketball, and hockey, second only to California in the number of 
professional major league teams playing in the State. This is 
appropriate to the size and rapid growth of our State and its 
demonstrated support for professional sports.
  Madam President, I thank the major league baseball ownership for 
awarding this franchise to Tampa Bay. They have demonstrated wisdom in 
doing so because I am confident that this will quickly become one of 
the strongest franchises in major league baseball. There is a certain 
degree of optimism in accepting a major league franchise in the context 
of the current labor-management status, but I am confident well before 
1998 we will be playing major league baseball again in America and look 
forward to the day when the Tampa Bay Devil Rays open their first 
season.
  Madam President, thank you for affording me this opportunity to make 
these remarks on behalf of the citizens of our State and the event that 
we have long looked forward to celebrating.


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