ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — The Rays will not split future Major League Baseball seasons between Tampa Bay and Montreal, the team’s owner announced Thursday.
In a news conference, principal owner Stu Sternberg announced MLB killed the plan that’s been kicked around for several years now. He called the league’s decision painful.
“Major League Baseball simply isn’t prepared to cross that threshold right now,” he said.
The Rays were first given permission by the MLB to explore a split-city plan in June 2019. The plan would have had the Rays play home games in Tampa Bay early in the season and then play the remainder of games in Montreal.
Team officials threw their support behind the idea days later, asking fans to keep open minds. Sternberg at the time said it was difficult for a city to host 81 games every season.
“To be clear, this is not a staged exit. This is not us taking even one glance at moving to Montreal,” Sternberg said. “We are connecting with another market.”
Rick Kriseman, who was mayor of St. Pete at the time, voiced his opposition to the plan early on. The city of St. Petersburg officially ended split-season negotiations with the Rays In December 2019.
“We are not a part-time city. We are not a part-time region,” Kriseman said. “We are a Major League community. No one can doubt St. Pete and Tampa Bay’s trajectory.”
He called on the team to adhere to its current lease with the city, which runs through 2027.
Late last year, team management for the Rays confirmed commitment to splitting the season. Sternberg had plans to hang a banner promoting both Tampa Bay and Montreal during playoff games, but later apologized and nixed the idea after fan backlash.
The idea of a split-city plan came just a few years after the Rays announced plans to leave Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg and build a new ballpark in Ybor City. Supporters of the plan said it would make the Rays more accessible to a larger audience of fans. Others wanted the team to stay put in St. Pete.
During his Thursday news conference, Sternberg said the team was exploring options in the Tampa Bay region.
“Our goal has been to keep [the team] here for generations and generations. We have tried in the past to build in St. Petersburg, we tried to build full-season in Tampa as well,” he said. “We’ll see how the stands look this year and the support we get and that’s going to help inform us as well going forward on our plans.”
St. Pete Mayor Welch said in a statement Thursday he’s confident the city can partner with the Rays to find a “new and iconic” full-time home for MLB in St. Petersburg.
“We are working with our county partners and 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,” he said.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor also said she’s optimistic the Rays will “call Tampa Bay home for many years to come.”
“All along our goal has been to keep the Rays in Tampa Bay,” she said in a statement. “We had been working on both sister city and full season proposals, and now we can focus all of our energy on a full season.”
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