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Sternberg: Won’t be hard to social distance at the Trop

Tampa Bay RaysThis probably shouldn’t be the subject of a joke, as Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg kids about COVID-19 not impacting Tropicana Field games because only 10,000 or so fan attend on any given day.

Yes, we know the Rays are a bad draw, and the lack of attendance despite a winning record and decent game-day operation must frustrate Sternberg. He was pretty frank about the impact of COVID-19 on his team during a Tampa Bay Times interview: with small crowds in a large ballpark, social distancing won’t be too hard to accomplish:

Sternberg is not sure if or how many fans will be allowed for the Rays’ scheduled April 9 home opener vs. the Yankees but feels “pretty confident that come the summer we’re going to be able to have in as many fans as would like to be at our ballpark.”

He noted — ”tongue in cheek, but it’s the truth” — the Rays likely could do so with social-distancing restrictions in place, though they would be happy to adjust if demand increases: “Most of our games are attended by less than 10,000 people, so we could probably for the most part run a normal stadium operation.”

On a more serious note, Sternberg took aim at the long-term plan to extend the Rays operations to include half of the season played in Montreal. We’ve written about the plan extensively in the past (witness the many related stories at the end of this piece), but basically the Rays would play the first half of the season at a Tampa-area outdoor ballpark and the second at a Montreal ballpark. The Tropicana Field lease ends after the 2027 season, and Sternberg sees the split-market approach as the only way to save Tampa Bay Rays baseball. Whether he’s right or not is up for debate, of course, but at least he has a plan:

Sternberg said the Rays have made “tremendous progress” the past few months on the Montreal side in terms of stadium plans and business dealings with the group led by Stephen Bronfman. “I’ve been not just encouraged, but really beyond pleased on how things are progressing up there,” he said.

As noted in an article earlier today, a developer seeking to build at the Peel Basin site envisioned as hosting a Montreal team is not including a ballpark at the site just yet, but noted talks are continuing.

RELATED STORIES: New Montreal ballpark not in development plans–yet; City: Further Study Needed on New Montreal MLB BallparkRays Steadily Pitching Case for Tampa Bay-Montreal ProposalTampa, Hillsborough County Officials Work to Lure RaysRays Advance Talks With St. Pete About Partial Montreal MoveRob Manfred Backs Rays’ Pursuit of Split-Season PlanRays Said to Have Threatened to Block Tropicana Field DevelopmentTampa Mayor: Maybe Tampa/Montreal Split Season Plan Can WorkRays Will Pursue Tampa Bay/Montreal Split in 2028Kriseman: No Split Season for the RaysRays Advance Talks With St. Pete About Partial Montreal MoveTampa Should Reopen Rays Ballpark Talks: MayorManfred: Rays’ Split Season Pitch is Way to Keep Team in Tampa BayBronfman: Rays Proposal is Key First Step to MLB Return to MontrealNew St. Petersburg Ballpark Could Factor into Rays Tampa Bay/Montreal PlanPlenty of Obstacles to Tampa Bay/Montreal PlanMLB: Rays Can Discuss Tampa/Montreal Split SeasonAgreement Reached on Potential Montreal Ballpark SiteVision for New Montreal MLB Ballpark: Anchor for Mixed-Use DevelopmentMontreal Group Methodically Building Case for MLB’s ReturnPolitical Reaction to Montreal MLB Ballpark Site: MixedSite Emerging for New Montreal MLB BallparkReport: Support High for MLB’s Return to MontrealQuebec’s Main Parties Open to Partnering on New Montreal Ballpark

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