Major League Baseball has given the Tampa Bay Rays permission to explore playing half their games in Montreal. Under the proposed scenario, the Rays would open the season playing games in Tampa Bay, but move to Montreal later in the season, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN.
Rays owner Stu Sternberg released a statement saying he was committed to keeping the Rays in Tampa Bay, but that this is an idea worth exploring.
The Rays proposed the idea after failing to secure a new stadium near Tampa Bay. While Montreal doesn’t currently have a stadium, an agreement has been reached at a potential site. By having early games in Tampa Bay, the new stadium in Montreal would not require a dome, which could save on costs.
Since the Expos left Montreal following the 2004 season, passionate supporters have fought to bring baseball back to the city.
The plan, which Passan notes is still in its “nascent stages,” is rife with potential issues. How will the season be split up between both stadiums? If the Rays make the playoffs, which stadium will host games? How will contracts work if players are splitting time between the United States and Canada? How long will this agreement last? What will happen with the team’s other employees? Will they be expected to relocate midseason? Will separate staffs operate at both facilities?
On Thursday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said the proposal was more of a long-term project.
That project may not get far. St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman says he will not allow the team to talk to Montreal about the move.
#Rays plan for Montreal already appears near death. St Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman says he told team he would not grant permission for talks with Montreal. Rays have use agreement with St Pete until 2027.
— John Romano (@romano_tbtimes) June 20, 2019
From 2012 to 2017, the Rays have ranked dead last in attendance. Despite a 43-31 record this season, the team isn’t faring much better. The Rays rank 29th in attendance, averaging 14,545 fans in 2019. Only the Miami Marlins have drawn fewer fans.
Playing half the team’s games in another country seems like a strange way to solve that issue. Given the numerous complications involved with pulling this off, the proposal could prove to be far more of a headache than anyone is willing to take on.
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