The Tampa Bay Rays proposed a zany idea back in June: what if they played half of their games at their ramshackle domed stadium in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the other half in Montreal? Major League Baseball gave Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg permission to explore the idea, and six months later we finally have some news: the entire proposal is dead through at least the 2027 season.
Via reporter Noah Pransky, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman released a letter on Wednesday that marks the end of any split-season negotiations between the Rays and the city for the time being.
— Noah Pransky (@noahpransky) December 4, 2019
The split-season proposal was wild and weird, and only truly made sense in a vacuum. In theory, it would allow the Rays access to fans in Montreal, a city starved for baseball since the Expos left in 2004 and turned into the Washington Nationals. The Rays’ average per game attendance at Tropicana Field is the second smallest in all of baseball, and spending half their games in Montreal, where they’d presumably be a big draw, would help boost those numbers (and revenue as well).
Outside of that vacuum, the proposal made almost no sense. Beyond the fact that Montreal would need to build a brand new stadium since it currently doesn’t have one, there were myriad questions and challenges. Would players be responsible for finding and paying for housing for them and their families in both the Tampa area and in Montreal? Would the team’s full-time employees have to work in both cities? How would this affect MLB’s carefully balanced scheduling? Which stadium would host the playoff games, or would those be split as well?
That’s just a short list of questions this proposal raised. The issues weren’t insurmountable, but it seemed like a lot of hassle for just 40 games a year in Montreal — especially for a team that has major problems drawing fans at home. Splitting the season between two cities mostly seemed like putting off the inevitable: moving the team to an entirely new city.
Moving the Rays at some point in the future still seems likely. In the letter, the mayor wrote that the team declined his offer to allow them to continue exploring future ballpark sites in the Tampa area, meaning they’re sticking with the Trop going forward. The team has another eight years on its lease agreement with the city of St. Petersburg, and as of now, what will happen to the Rays at the end of that is a mystery.
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