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Reactions to the Montreal Rays split-city proposal around Tampa Bay

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Here’s what the important voices are saying!

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“This is getting a bit silly,” says Mayor Rick Kriseman in a prepared statement to the press
@MarthaARhine

In the hours since news broke of the Rays receiving permission from MLB to consider a split-season with Montreal, the powers that be have weighed in from around the Tampa Bay community.

Here’s a collection of their statements.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman

Kriseman called in to WDAE to discuss the Rays lease agreement (MOU) this morning. Here are the highlights:

  • Fees to leave the region, as opposed to St. Petersburg, would increase damages to be owed to the city, as previous costs assumed Rays would remain in the bay area
  • Kriseman estimates payment to break the lease to leave Tampa Bay entirely would be “hundreds of millions”
  • Owner Stuart Sternberg called Kriseman earlier this year and asked him to consider the proposal, which Kriseman considered and then informed Sternberg he would not support
  • Sternberg then called Kriseman yesterday to let him know the story was coming, asking Kriseman to be “open-minded”
  • The Rays have not requested permission to discuss a new stadium with Hillsborough County
  • The Rays have ruled out building anywhere outside St. Petersburg in Pinellas County
  • Kriseman remains open to sitting down with the Rays for further discussions, still expects a stadium decision for St. Petersburg itself this summer
  • Kriseman believes the 30-minute drive problem for the current location will decrease as better public transit options and expanded bridges come to the Tampa Bay area
  • WDAE hosts call the proposal “asinine” and “insane”

Tampa’s “stadium broker” Commissioner Ken Hagan

Yesterday, before Kriseman made any public statement, Hagan jumped on WDAE to discuss the proposal positively. If you take a listen, you’ll hear him react to Kriseman’s statements yesterday calling the proposal “silly” in real time. The highlights:

  • Rays President Brian Auld called Hagan yesterday morning to warn him the news was breaking, and per Hagan, said the Rays want to be “in Tampa”
  • Hagan says, “whatever the Rays can do to force St. Pete” to allow the Rays to look for a new stadium outside their city limits is a positive development
  • Believes the Rays would seek to build two “smaller” stadiums while benefiting from two television contracts
  • The Ybor stadium location remains the intended location for both the Rays and Hillsborough County; claims “our half of the money” had been coordinated before time ran out for Rays to opt out of lease in 2018
  • Hagan says he is “shocked at the lack of leadership” in St. Petersburg, despite failing to land Rays deal in Tampa after three years at the helm
  • “If you piss the Rays off and we don’t reach an agreement, they’re gonna remain there [Tropicana Field] until 2027, and then they’re gonna leave the region.”

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor:

Other Tampa Political Figures:

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred:

The Rays “still are interested in having a new facility in Tampa. The limits of the current facility in terms of the atmosphere and the location are pretty well known.’’

“[...] the purpose of the split season would be to preserve baseball in Tampa (Bay), but improve the economics of the club overall by playing some of their games in Montreal. There is no commitment on the part of the owners to ultimately approve a plan. The permission that was granted was simply a permission to explore this alternative in an effort to strengthen a franchise that’s performed great on the field but continues to be pretty limited from an economic perspective.’’

“There was no commitment, discussion, grant (of permission) on the issue of a permanent relocation, it was simply the split season possibility.’’

[TB Times]

Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg:

Rays Presidents Matt Silverman and Brian Auld:

The following e-mail was sent by the team presidents to their corporate partners this morning:

Prospective Montreal Owner Stephen Bronfman:

Rays Player Reactions

Former Rays Manager Joe Maddon:

“Love it. Yeah, wouldn’t it be kind of cool?” former Rays manager Joe Maddon said of the split-season idea. “Let’s do a little ‘European Vacation’ in the middle of the summer, head north of the border. It sounds really groovy, actually. I’ve never been to Montreal, but I’ve heard so many wonderful things about it. Um, I don’t see it ever happening.”

[The Athletic]

Tampa Bay Times:

We would be remiss to not mention the statements from the newspaper of record on this proposal.

Here are the highlights from John Romano’s excellent column on the news: If the Montreal idea is bogus, what are the Rays really thinking?

  • The Rays already knew this would not be well received:

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman was unequivocal about that. He already told the Rays weeks ago that he wasn’t interested. And since the team is not contractually allowed to negotiate with anyone else about playing in a stadium before 2028, that pretty much kills it.

But here’s what’s weird:

The Rays already knew that. Yet they went ahead and announced this utterly fanciful idea. And that’s what should concern you today.

  • It was a calculated decision to break this news anyway:

I’m not saying the Rays weren’t serious about the waterfront idea in 2007 or the Ybor City plan in 2018, but this daddy-has-another-family idea with Montreal is something completely different. It’s not just farfetched, it is also at odds with the way this ownership group typically conducts business.

They don’t do trial balloons. They don’t ask questions to which they don’t already know the answer. So why propose a deal they already knew looked dead on arrival?

  • Romano’s speculated endgame:

Of course, the Rays could also be setting the wheels in motion to buy out the final years of their use agreement at Tropicana Field, with the argument that redevelopment there should happen as soon as possible for the city’s best interests. Kriseman said he might entertain that notion, but he suggested the price would not be cheap.

  • Ultimately, “this is a gross misstep.”

Even if the Rays are serious about the Montreal idea, you don’t let the commissioner announce it in New York, then let it sit without comment until next week’s news conference. And you don’t embarrass a hometown mayor and a City Council who did you a favor by handing you a sweetheart deal to negotiate in Tampa four years ago.