TB progressing with Montreal Sister City plan

September 26th, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG -- While expressing club officials’ desire to be “very considerate” about keeping their focus on the field, Rays president Matt Silverman revealed the team will soon be “more visible and more vocal” regarding its Sister City plan to split future seasons between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal.

During an interview on the This Week in Rays Baseball pregame radio show, Silverman said the Rays will unveil a sign representing the plan at Tropicana Field during the playoffs.

“For the postseason, we're going to add a sign in the right-field foul territory with a very simple Tampa Bay Montreal graphic. Especially with the eyes of baseball on us this October, we want that visible symbol of our plan and our excitement for it,” Silverman said during his radio interview. “It'll mark the effort subtly and keep the focus on winning and winning games in October and getting to that final game, maybe, and finally winning it for the first time in franchise history.”

The Rays first unveiled the Sister City concept in June 2019, when Major League Baseball’s executive council granted the club permission to explore the possibility of playing a schedule with home games split between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal. At the time, Commissioner Rob Manfred said the plan would aim to “preserve baseball in Tampa, but improve the economics of the club overall by playing some of their games in Montreal.”

“We believe in our Sister City plan. Major League Baseball believes in it fully. It's the best and possibly only chance for baseball to be here for generations,” Silverman said on This Week in Rays Baseball. “That's been our sole focus. It's never been about other markets and relocation overtures. It's always been about how we can make it work here. … We desperately want the Rays to succeed, for our area to continue to flourish and for baseball to be a big part of that success. Now, as I mentioned earlier, there's been an encouraging shift among our fans and community and a real openness about the plan.

“I'm more optimistic today than I've ever been that we're going to make this happen and we're going to secure the Rays' future here in Tampa Bay for decades to come.”

The idea is based around having new, open-air ballparks in both markets, with the team playing about half its home games in Tampa Bay early in the season then moving to Montreal to finish the year. The plan was initially met with some skepticism regarding how it would work logistically, how fans in each market would react, and how local government officials would support such an idea. But Silverman said he was “very encouraged by the conversations we’re having and the progress that we’re making.”

“We are working away and making progress both here and in Montreal,” Silverman said. “As this wonderful season has unfolded on the field, we wanted to be very considerate about making the focus about that and not our ballpark efforts. We want the center of attention to be firmly on the team, and so the focus will be there and what October can bring. But I expect that once the page turns to the offseason, we're going to be more visible and more vocal about our plans, because we're entering crunch time. Our lease here at The Trop expires after the 2027 season, so the time to solve this issue is now.”

During the interview, Silverman also confirmed that the American League East champion Rays are planning to roll up the tarps and reopen the upper deck at Tropicana Field during the postseason. Silverman estimated that the ballpark’s capacity will likely jump into the low 30,000s to begin the AL Division Series before potentially increasing further if the club continues to advance.

“I'm excited for the environment that we're going to create here at The Trop,” Silverman said. “When this place is rocking, when The Trop is full, it's one of the best places in all of baseball to watch a game.”