St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has halted talks for the Tampa Bay Rays to adopt a split season between Montreal and Tampa, saying that the team needs to adhere to its current Tropicana Field lease.
The Rays received permission from Major League Baseball to negotiate a deal with Tampa, St. Petersburg and Montreal about a unique arrangement where the Rays would play the beginning of the season in Florida and the end in Montreal. 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 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. After talks between the team and city officials, Kriseman pulled the plug on a dual arrangement.
“Both parties have agreed that the best path forward is to abide by the existing use agreement,” Kriseman told the City Council via memo. “In accordance with the existing use agreement, should the Rays Organization wish to continue exploration of the shared season concept with Montreal, that exploration must be limited to the 2028 season and beyond.”
Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg issued the following statement:
“We agree generally with Mayor Kriseman’s characterization of our months of conversations, though we would like to clarify two points. First, we do not agree that this is the best path forward. Second, we asked for the opportunity to explore this concept with both St. Petersburg and Montreal, and with Tampa and Montreal.
“We recognize that we must now consider our post-2027 options and all that entails, and we remain steadfast in our belief that the Sister City concept is deserving of serious consideration.”
This won’t end discussion of the deal, however, and team officials say they will continue to work toward some sort of facility relief before the end of the 2027 season. From Tampa Bay Times:
“It remains clear to us, and we continue to believe that it’s also true for the city, that the worst of possible outcomes here is for the team to be compelled to stay here through the end of the 2027 season,” [Rays President Brian] Auld said, “and forced to pursue other options in a noncooperative engagement with the city of St. Petersburg.”
The mayor said he wrote his memo in response to pressure from City Council members for an update on the split-season negotiations.
“We are not a part-time city, we are not a part-time region,” Kriseman told the Times. “We are a Major League city and region and that’s what we deserve.”
The mayor wrote in the memo that he had offered the team the chance to look elsewhere in the Tampa Bay area for a full-time stadium location, which the city did in 2016 to allow it to pursue a Hillsborough County site. But the team turned that offer down, he said.
This is a situation still in flux, but the clock is ticking on any potential changes with the team. We’ll have a deeper analysis later.
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