The Executive Committee had approved a pursuit of the plan in 2019, and the Rays and a Montreal investment group, Claridge Inc., led by Stephen Bronfman had proceeded with planning under that plan. Interestingly, there was increasing support in the last six months in both markets for such an arrangement, but the decision today kills the plan.
The plan had the Rays spend spring training and the first half of the season in Tampa, then switching to a Montreal base for the remainder of the season. It would mean two mid-priced ballparks, both without an expensive roof, designed to take advantage of the climate in each location. Here’s what Stuart Sternberg, Principal Owner, said in a statement to fans:
“Today’s news that MLB’s executive council has rejected our Sister City plan is painful. We had focused our full attention to that effort. We know that questions about our future in Tampa Bay will continue to surface, and there are no simple, immediate answers. What we can provide is our continued pledge to field winning teams, to invest in our community and to contribute to Tampa Bay being a great place to call home.
“I am very grateful for the open-mindedness, support and encouragement we received from across Tampa Bay during our Sister City efforts. If we harness that momentum and build upon it, together we will keep the Rays here in Champa Bay for generation upon generation.”
In Montreal, there’s similar wonderment at MLB’s decision to withdraw support for the plan, per a statement issued by Bronfman:
“More than two years ago, Major League Baseball gave the Rays the green light to pursue its Sister City Baseball Plan and, on a number of occasions, publicly supported this innovative vision.
“The plan involved the Rays building new open-air ballparks in both Tampa Bay and Montreal and for each market to host about half of the team’s regular season games.
“Montreal was selected for this unique partnership because we are a world-class North American city that is complementary to Tampa Bay in many ways. But also because there is a strong history and affinity for baseball in our great city.”
“In Montreal, we had chosen the Bridge Bonaventure sector and we wanted the return of an MLB team to be about much more than baseball and a stadium. Our vision was for an ambitious, inclusive, and eco-responsible project that would take a new approach to integrating first-class sports and community facilities in a vibrant and balanced living neighbourhood.
“While we are disappointed with MLB’s decision, we respect it. I am very proud of the work we’ve done together with our partners and friends in Tampa Bay.”
So what happens now? The answer in Montreal: continue development in the Peel Basin area where a new ballpark would have been sited. In Tampa, it means the Rays will continue to work on a new ballpark in the city’s Ybor City area, one that will cost more under these new and different circumstances–hello, new retractable-roof ballpark.
RELATED STORIES: Tampa/Montreal baseball plan moves forward, inch by inch; Tampa mayor: Rays ballpark financial plan in works; Rays envision a pedestrian-friendly Ybor City ballpark; Another Ybor City site considered for new Rays ballpark; On second thought: No Montreal promo for Rays playoffs; Rays to push Montreal plans during playoffs; Is Tampa ballpark bid gaining momentum?; It’s back: Rays revive Ybor City ballpark plan; Rays Steadily Pitching Case for Tampa Bay-Montreal Proposal; Tampa, Hillsborough County Officials Work to Lure Rays; Rays Advance Talks With St. Pete About Partial Montreal Move; Rob Manfred Backs Rays’ Pursuit of Split-Season Plan; Rays Said to Have Threatened to Block Tropicana Field Development; Tampa Mayor: Maybe Tampa/Montreal Split Season Plan Can Work; Rays Will Pursue Tampa Bay/Montreal Split in 2028