The Al Lang Stadium site could be in play for a new ballpark as the Tampa Bay Rays explore a split Tampa Bay/Montreal arrangement, though it is far from certain at this stage.
It was revealed last week that Major League Baseball is allowing the Rays to explore a concept that would allow the franchise to split its seasons between Tampa Bay and Montreal. Plenty of obstacles would have to be overcome to make the idea a reality, but the plan could include new open-air ballparks in both markets. The open-air designs would result in lower construction costs, while allowing the Rays to plan their schedule around optimal weather conditions–spring and early summer games could be played in the Tampa Bay region, with summer and early fall games in Montreal.
The Rays publicly discussed the situation on Tuesday, noting that their goal is to start any potential split-season arrangement in 2024. As for ballpark plans, the team is floating the idea of maintaining its Tampa Bay-based operations in St. Petersburg at a new open-air facility. The waterfront Al Lang Stadium, the team’s former spring-training home and a location once proposed for a Tropicana Field replacement, is among the sites that the organization would consider. For his part, St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman is expressing a willingness to discuss the idea, but with the caveat that any new ballpark constructed as part of a split-season arrangement be built without any city funds. More from the Tampa Bay Times:
Team president Matt Silverman said while they felt that had to find the “perfect” location in picking the Ybor site the standards are less stringent for this project.
Though they insisted they were open to many options, they did acknowledge that the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront site of Al Lang Stadium, which they currently control as owner of the Rowdies soccer team, was “definitely a possibility.’’ (So too, [principal owner Stuart] Sternberg said, in a less than optimal outcome, would be getting a new stadium in Montreal but staying at the Trop.)…
Mayor Rick Kriseman, who initially dismissed the plan, said Tuesday he would be willing to talk about it, kind of, with the caveats that the new stadium was built in St. Petersburg and with no city contribution.
“If Mr. Sternberg wishes to formally explore this concept with me and his desire to privately and fully fund a new stadium in the City of St. Petersburg, I am willing to listen,’’ Kriseman said in a statement. “The City of St. Petersburg will not participate in the funding of a new stadium for a part-time team. We remain receptive to partnering with the Tampa Bay Rays to redevelop the Tropicana Field site and build a new stadium for a full-time team. St. Pete’s future has never been brighter and every business and baseball team in America should want to be a part of it.’’
The Rays are currently locked into a lease at Tropicana Field that runs through 2027, so the organization would have to persuade St. Petersburg officials on any plans to split its seasons between the Tampa Bay region and Montreal. More than a decade ago, the Rays floated a plan for a new ballpark at the Al Lang Stadium site (the rendering from that plan is shown above). Public opposition contributed to the end of the franchise’s push for that project, however, and the proposal has never been revived. Currently, Al Lang Stadium is home to professional soccer’s Tampa Bay Rowdies, a Division II USL Championship club that the Rays bought last year from businessman Bill Edwards.
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