What had been brought up conceptually has now risen to the level of specific discussions, as Tampa Bay Rays management is exploring a partial move to Montreal with St. Petersburg officials before the Tropicana Field lease ends in 2027.
That the Rays were floating a split existence between Tampa Bay and Montreal, ideally starting in 2024 when a new Montreal ballpark could be completed, was revealed in June 2019 after MLB is allowed the Rays to explore the concept. 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.
When the plan was first unveiled, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said that he was not yet seeking formal permission from St. Petersburg to scale back the team’s commitment to the Trop. The current Trop lease calls for the team to play all its home games there and prohibits the team from exploring a move elsewhere–a clause temporarily waived when the team embarked on a ballpark site search in neighboring Tampa. In recent meetings between team reps and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, the Rays have indeed officially broached the subject of a split schedule. From the Tampa Bay Times:
But on Wednesday, city policy chief Kevin King said the team has made a formal request to play home games in Montreal before 2027.
“Yes, long ago,” he said by phone, before deferring to the mayor.
Kriseman, shortly thereafter, initially would not confirm the team made a formal request, saying only that the Rays have “clearly expressed their desire to explore a split season with Montreal.”
Kriseman said the request was oral and that nothing has been put in writing. He said he couldn’t remember at what point the request went from “informal” to “formal.” Nor would he say what exactly the team asked for, or any concessions the team offered.
We are not talking about some sort of legalistic process yet, as negotiations are obviously still in a starting phase. And any agreement coming from the mayor’s office would need to be approved by the City Council, which would represent a new level of debate. But the fact that the Rays have moved from concept to something more tangible is certainly noteworthy.
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