St. Pete-Rays negotiations for Montreal idea end

December 4th, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- The proposed plan that would’ve seen the Rays split their home games between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal appears to be dead, at least for now.

On Wednesday, St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman announced that he and the city will not grant permission for the Rays to explore the unique split-city idea.

“Negotiations between the City of St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays' organization related to the ‘shared season’ concept have concluded,” Kriseman said, through a memo. “Both parties have agreed that the best path forward is to abide by the existing use agreement with the understanding that the agreement allows for the Rays' organization to explore post-2027 split or full-season opportunities, both in St. Petersburg and elsewhere.”

In June, Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg proposed a plan for the Rays to play half their regular-season games in the Tampa Bay area and the other half in Montreal. Sternberg believed that the plan was the best way to maximize revenue while also keeping the Rays in the area.

“We agree generally with Mayor Kriseman’s characterization of our months of conversations, though we would like to clarify two points," Sternberg said in a statement. "First, we do not agree that this is the best path forward. Second, we asked for the opportunity to explore this concept with both St. Petersburg and Montreal, and with Tampa and Montreal.

“We recognize that we must now consider our post-2027 options and all that entails, and we remain steadfast in our belief that the Sister City concept is deserving of serious consideration.”

Once the Rays' Tropicana Field lease ends after the 2027 season, they can continue to explore opportunities in the Tampa Bay area as they seek to build a new stadium, or they could to play elsewhere, which would include a resurrection of the split-season idea with Montreal.

Since June, Kriseman has said the city will not help fund a new stadium for a part-time team and believes keeping the Rays in St. Petersburg is in the best interest of the team.

“I continue to believe that the Rays' organization will come to determine that the Tampa Bay area, and specifically St. Pete, remains the best place to play baseball 81 days a year and to succeed in the long-term,” Kriseman said. “The growth and vibrancy in the Sunshine City, and particularly in the area surrounding Tropicana Field, signals a bright future for that site. A strengthening television market and record revenues across Major League Baseball only further solidify my beliefs.”

Kriseman also said that the city will evaluate redeveloping the Tropicana Field site, and he encouraged fans to continue to support the team as it will remain in St. Petersburg through the 2027 season.