News And Updates
Published By: Herald Tribune
The county's baseball stadium will continue to be called Charlotte Sports Park after the Tampa Bay Rays and the Mosaic Co. announced Wednesday that they had reconsidered a naming rights deal.
The announcement came as the Rays prepared to open their second spring training camp in Port Charlotte with pitchers and catchers beginning workouts on Friday.
"While we believe this naming rights deal presents many benefits to both the Rays and the entire community, neither the Rays nor Mosaic wants it to distract the team and fans from their focus on baseball," Mark Fernandez, Rays senior vice president, said in a statement.
The statement did not say whether the Rays and Mosaic would revisit the deal in the future.
On Feb. 3, the Rays and Mosaic announced a 15-year agreement for an undisclosed amount to name the site Mosaic Field at Charlotte Sports Park. But the decision brought a torrent of criticism from Charlotte County residents. The county's share over that period would have been about $1.4 million.
The proposed naming rights deal put the Rays in the middle of a public relations battle between Charlotte County and Mosaic, potentially jeopardizing the club's relationship with the county.
Some county leaders and residents objected to naming the baseball field for Mosaic after the county spent $12 million over the past decade in a legal fight over the company's phosphate strip mining permits in the Peace River basin.
The status of the deal had been uncertain since last week's County Commission meeting, where Rays executives were greeted by dozens of residents wearing "No Mosaic Field" stickers.
The team withdrew the request for commission approval of the naming deal and had not asked for it to be placed on the agenda for next Tuesday's meeting, the last before baseball exhibition games begin March 4.
Residents said afterward Mosaic was trying to buy goodwill, and that the Rays owed them an apology. Some commissioners said the Rays were trying to rush the deal past the public.
A Mosaic spokesman accused Commissioner Adam Cummings and the Sierra Club of launching an e-mail campaign against the company.
Mosaic spokesman David Townsend said Rays executives feared a "circus" atmosphere at the last meeting, and wanted to gauge whether the turnout was "truly indicative of community sentiment."
He claimed that Cummings stacked the deck by issuing a joint "press release" with the local Sierra Club environmental group that was critical of Mosaic. It urged residents to complain to the Rays and commissioners.
Cummings said the short time frame left the public with little time to react.
He said he immediately contacted organizations to get the word out about the deal. "Part of my job is to make people aware of what's going on and encouraging them to participate," he said.