MLB nix Tampa Bay Rays season split plan


MLB rejects Tampa Bay Rays plan to play in Montreal Image: Dirk Shadd (Tampa Bay Times)

The American professional baseball team Tampa Bay Rays’ proposed plan to split the season between Florida (US) and Montreal (Canada) has been rejected by Major League Baseball (MLB).

The ‘CBC Sports’ stated that Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg announced the news on January 20th – “Today’s news is flat-out deflating”.

The Tampa Bay Rays are an American professional baseball team based in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rays compete in Major League Baseball as a member club of the American League East division. Since its inception, the team’s home venue has been Tropicana Field.

The 42,735-capacity Tropicana Field, also commonly known as ‘The Trop’, is a domed stadium located in St. Petersburg, Florida, United States, that has been the home of the Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball since the team’s inaugural season in 1998.

The Major League Baseball (MLB) is a professional baseball organization and the oldest major professional sports league in the world. As of 2022, a total of 30 teams play in Major League Baseball – 15 teams in the National League and 15 in the American League – with 29 in the United States and 1 in Canada.

The ‘CBC Sports’ further stated that the idea of playing in both the Tampa Bay area and Montreal has been discussed over the past several years after attempts to build a new full-time ballpark locally failed.

Added Sternberg, “Things had progressed nicely and things had been working nicely, and then recently it just sort of took a turn to the South and we don’t precisely know why. I have no doubt that what we tried to accomplish with our sister-City plan will become accepted in all of professional sports. Major League Baseball simply isn’t prepared to cross that threshold right now.”

When asked if he felt somewhat betrayed by his fellow owners, Sternberg replied, “That’s a word. The game is peculiar in a lot of senses and things happen for a lot of reasons. Sometimes for the good, but always with good intentions for the game itself. We quite often have differing opinions on what that might mean.”

Added Sternberg, “Sometimes people don’t like to be first. There was a fellow on this call when we went cashless a few years ago said to me, ‘I get it, I understand, but why do you have to be first. It’s just people have different approaches to things. We don’t mind being first on things.”

Montreal had a big league team from 1969, when the expansion Expos began play, through 2004. The Expos moved to Washington and became the Nationals for the 2005 season.

Added Sternberg, “They were as, if not more, devastated than I was at the news.”

Montreal businessman Stephen Bronfman, who led that City’s group, told newsmen that the split-season plan is “The way of the future. It’s very forward-thinking and it will happen. But often times it takes a first group, a first league, a first person to jump in and take that leap of faith. We would have proved them all right. They would have done the right thing by supporting us. It’s very unfortunate they didn’t end up making that call.”

Bronfman said there is currently no “Plan B” to bring baseball back to Montreal. I’ve grown up with the game, I love Montreal, I believe in what we were working on. I think we’re all a little burnt today … but anything can happen. We put a ton of work into this marketplace and I think there is a lot of data out there, there is so much positive news about what Montreal means to baseball, what it can bring.”

Ticket window woes

The Rays’ lease at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, where the team has played since its inaugural season in 1998, expires after the 2027 season.

Since Sternberg took control in October 2005, the once-struggling franchise has been a success on the field, but not at the box office.

Despite reaching the World Series in 2008 and 2020, the Rays have annually ranked near the bottom in attendance. The Rays averaged about 9,500 fans for home games last season, 28th in the majors and ahead of only Miami and Oakland.

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch said he thought a new stadium in his City remains a possibility. Governmental officials have been working on a redevelopment plan for the Tropicana Field site.

A statement sent out by Welch stated, “We are working with our county partners and the City Council to put together the best plan possible, which will work in conjunction with my planned evolution of the Tropicana Field master development proposals. With this collaborative approach, I am confident we can partner with the Tampa Bay Rays to create a new and iconic full-time home for Major League Baseball in St. Petersburg while also achieving historic equitable economic growth.”

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