Rays’ Tampa/Montreal Timeshare Plans Nixed By MLB
In a blow to principal owner Stuart Sternberg’s attempts to secure a new ballpark in or around the city of Tampa, the Major League Baseball Executive Council officially quashed the Rays’ plans to split time between Tampa and Montreal, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. MLB had given the Rays permission to explore the ’sister city’ concept in 2019.
The decision puts the Rays future in the Tampa Bay region very much in doubt. As MLBTR explored last week, Tampa mayor Jane Castor expressed her commitment to keeping the Rays in the area but offered only qualified support for a proposed $700MM open-air ballpark in the northeast Tampa neighborhood of Ybor City, stating that the community would be best served by keeping the team in Tampa while all but ruling out the possibility of a significant investment of public funds into the project. The Rays had committed $350MM to the project.
It’s presently unclear whether the Ybor City plan, which called for the construction of a similar park in Montreal to host half the team’s games, is now effectively dead as well. Though unusual, the plan was not unprecedented. In 2003, their final season before relocating to Washington, D.C., the Expos played 22 of their 81 home games at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico while under the stewardship of Major League Baseball; the league bought the team from Jeffrey Loria (who subsequently purchased the Marlins) ahead of the 2003 season.
The Rays’ lease on Tropicana Field — an object of near-universal derision around the game — runs through 2027. It obviously isn’t yet clear what would happen thereafter should the Rays fail to secure a new stadium, but a move to Nashville — where a group calling itself Music City Baseball has attempted to organize both an ownership group and community support for a potential big-league team in the city — could be an entirely live possibility. High-profile individuals associated with the project include former United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former Titans running back Eddie George, and current White Sox manager Tony La Russa.
This is a developing story. Rays owner Stuart Sternberg will address the media at 1 PM EST/12 PM CST, and this story will be updated with any news that arises.