Major League Baseball cancels Tampa Bay Rays ‘sister city’ concept with Montreal

Major League Baseball Executive Council ended the Tampa Bay Rays plan to split the season between Florida and Montreal. The decision leaves the Rays’ future in limbo, but it will likely speed up talks to have a full-time stadium built somewhere in the area.

“We’ll regroup and see where things stand,” team owner Stu Sternberg told reporters Thursday afternoon.

He called the news “total deflation”.

The club, plagued by chronically low attendance at St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field despite being one of MLB’s top teams, has bounced between Tampa and St. Petersburg for years while searching for a new home.

They aggressively pushed a plan to play half a season in the Tampa Bay area and then move to Montreal for the second half. Sternberg said he had the green light from MLB, but “recently he’s taken a southerly turn. I don’t know why.

For the past several months, the Rays have appeared to be focusing on Ybor City in Tampa as a possible stadium site. While supporting helping the Rays complete this project, the Mayor of Tampa Jeanne Beaver stressed that any financing plan would not include taxpayers’ money.

“The conversations were very advanced. However, they were all tied to the sister city concept,” Sternberg said. “We had a great relationship with the people of Hillsborough (county) and Tampa. I know they were working very hard on their behalf, on our behalf, and especially on behalf of the citizens to try to create something together that they thought was going to be useful for the city, and for Hillsborough, and quite frankly for the Tampa Bay Area.

“So going forward, I know our paths are going to cross and we’re going to engage with them. I think they’re in a perfect position to, you know, try to push that through.

Castor, who was in Washington for meetings, released a statement after hearing the news.

“From the start, our goal has been to keep the Rays in Tampa Bay. We had worked on both sister cities and full season proposals, and now we can focus all of our energy on a full season,” she said.
“I’m optimistic the Rays will call Tampa Bay home for many years to come.”

Mayor of Saint Petersburg Ken Welch said his city isn’t giving up on keeping the Rays.

“We are working with our county partners and the city council to develop the best plan possible, which will work in conjunction with my planned evolution of the main development proposals for Tropicana Field,” he said.

“Through this collaborative approach, I am confident we can partner with the Tampa Bay Rays to create an iconic new full-time home for Major League Baseball in St. Petersburg while achieving historic equitable economic growth.”

The Rays abandoned two previous attempts to build a stadium in the area.

In 2007, they unveiled a plan for a baseball stadium on the current site of Al Lang Stadium in downtown St. Petersburg, but scrapped it after citizens refused.

In 2018, the team revealed plans for an $892 million stadium in Ybor, but that proposal fell apart due to funding issues.

This led to the concept of a sister city, which appeared as a long shot all along. He would have had to face many logistical problems and need stadiums in two cities. Despite the skepticism, Sternberg stuck to the plan. He repeatedly said the Rays would not be a full-time team in Tampa Bay after their lease ended after the 2027 season.

He retired from that position on Thursday, saying he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a full-time team here.

Completing a stadium in time for the 2028 season now faces a serious time crunch.

“We’re going to have to get to work,” Sternberg conceded.

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