After the failed attempt to build a new stadium in Tampa Bay, the Rays are starting to consider what happens after 2027 when their lease on Tropicana Field is complete.
Among the solutions being discussed is a two-city future, where the Rays build a new stadium in Tampa Bay, but only occupy it for the first half of the season, moving the second half of the year’s games to Montreal.
Here’s the story, from ESPN’s Jeff Passan:
While the plan is in its nascent stages, the Rays have embraced the two-city solution as the most feasible to saving baseball in the Tampa Bay area after years of failed attempts to build a new stadium in the region, according to sources.
Emphasis is my own. At this time, it would appear this is the leading plan for the 2028 season.
Under the plan, the Rays would play in new stadiums in both the Tampa Bay area and Montreal, according to sources. The ability to play games early in the season in Florida would preclude the need for a domed stadium, cutting the cost of a new building.
A month ago, Bronfman -- who along with Montreal businessman Mitch Garber has expressed interest in taking a minority stake in the Rays alongside owner Stuart Sternberg -- reached an agreement with a developer on a site in Montreal’s Point-Saint-Charles neighborhood to potentially build a new stadium. The number of home games each city would receive has not been determined, according to sources.
The Rays have long said a new stadium in Tampa Bay would also require a dome due to the frequency of inclement weather (particularly lightning). Choosing opportune parts of the year to play outdoors could indeed remove the ~350 million cost of a dome structure over a new ballpark.
It’s not clear exactly how this development is allowed by the the team’s so-called iron clad lease for Tropicana Field, although the Rays memorandum of understanding signed in 2016 did allow for 10 games to be played at an alternative site to Tropicana Field.
#Rays permission from MLB is for premlimiary exploration of splitting season in Montreal. Among many hurdles, plan would require approval from St. Pete, players union, others. Wouldn't start for several seasons.— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) June 20, 2019
Rob Manfred spoke with the media this afternoon, and indicated a move could occur before new stadiums are constructed.
Rob Manfred says the Rays have a "broad grant" to explore a split season in Montreal. That could be in an old stadium or a new stadium. "That's really up to Stu Sternberg." There's no commitment yet, just exploratory.— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) June 20, 2019
Rays owner Stuart Sternberg and the team’s Presidents Matt Silverman and Brian Auld will hold a press conference on Tuesday, June 25th to discuss the matter in full.
Until then, Sternberg released the following statement:
Meanwhile, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman already shared his opposition to such a plan last February:
Agreed. And on behalf of the millions of fans who go to the games and watch the Rays on TV, I will not entertain a discussion about a split cities concept. I do stand ready to talk about a partnership w/ the Rays which facilitates the construction of a stadium in St. Petersburg. https://t.co/wetdrTQNjO— Rick Kriseman (@Kriseman) February 23, 2019
As others have pointed out there are many stumbling blocks to realizing this scheme.