Tampa Bay Rays celebrate launch of ‘City Connect’ logo

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Tampa Bay Rays hosted a City Connect logo launch celebration Thursday evening at the St. Pete Pier.

The MLB’s Nike City Connect program picks nine teams each year to design logos that link teams to their communities, and celebrates each area’s history and culture through an alternate uniform. The Rays revealed their logos on Monday.

The event at the Pier included player appearances, live music from local bands, skateboarding demonstrations, a drone show featuring some of the new logos and a merch tent with the new gear.

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"I think it represents all of the Bay Area," Rays fan Allan Marcelli said about the City Connect logos. "Living here since ‘62, you know, it's Tampa versus St. Pete, and every once in a while, people include Clearwater or Sarasota, Bradenton. And we're all the same community. So, the Rays represent all of us. They represent all of us with their personnel on field. So, why not bring something out where we can all wear the same stuff and take pride in it like we do with the other sports teams."

Marcelli said he went to the team store three times on Thursday and had purchased 12 to 14 items for himself, family and friends. He said he loves the Rays combined with the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, nicknamed SkyRay, and the skating ray that pays tribute to St. Pete’s skateboarding history.

"This time, I came out with some stickers, which I've never bought stickers to put on my car, but these are great. The new logo just represents, to me, really represents the change for the positive that the area is going through," he said.

Bill Walsh, the Rays’ Chief Business Officer, said Marcelli’s enthusiasm matches the community’s.

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"The response has been overwhelmingly positive," Walsh said. "Just a tremendous response from the fans. We had a line waiting at the door to come in [the team store] at 2 p.m. on Monday afternoon, just a few hours after we announced. We've had steady traffic here to the team store every day. We have an online presence as well at the Bay, which is kind of the online version of the team store here, and that's seen a ton of traffic as well. So, I think folks are just really energized by it."

"I think we have believed in this concept from the beginning, and we've been working on this for three years," Walsh said. "The order deadlines are, you know, years ahead of time. So, we had to place a bit of a bet on this. We've got plenty of merchandise, a lot of exciting new things coming in as well over the next few weeks. So, we're in a good position to, I think, meet the excitement and meet the moment."

While merchandise is available online too, Walsh said the store has a wider selection that’s not available elsewhere. The new logos are also featured on a new mural on Fifth Avenue North in St. Pete. The Vitale Bros. are the artists behind the mural.

"There are all kinds of little Easter eggs that I like, little elements of the logo," John Vitale said about the City Connect logos. "So, I was just like, ‘this is going to be a hit.’ I could tell right away and the fact that they aligned it with skateboarding as the main thing, it just makes sense, because there's a bridge literally that goes from the stadium over to the skate park."

"They [the City Connect team and the Rays] were inspired by St. Pete's multicultural kind of atmosphere with props to skateboarding, tattoo culture, neon signs and stuff like that, and graffiti, street art, all this stuff, everything that I'm, for whatever reason, I'm a part of," Vitale said.

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Vitale said the inspiration for the people in the mural came from the characters in his son’s Grand Theft Auto video game.

"I talked with him before I kind of designed this thing. He was sort of my, you know, consultant," he said.

The Rays are debuting the City Connect jerseys on the field Friday. They’ll wear them for all three home games this weekend, and every Saturday home game after that.


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