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The Tampa Bay Rays have acquired permission from Main League Baseball’s govt council to discover a plan by which they might play early-season house video games within the Tampa Bay space and the rest of the yr in Montreal, commissioner Rob Manfred mentioned Thursday.
Whereas the plan is in its nascent levels, the Rays have embraced the two-city resolution as essentially the most possible to saving baseball within the Tampa Bay space after years of failed makes an attempt to construct a brand new stadium within the area, sources informed ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Underneath the plan, the Rays would play in new stadiums in each the Tampa Bay space and Montreal, sources mentioned. The variety of house video games every metropolis would obtain has not been decided, sources mentioned.
Manfred referred to the thought of a two-city Rays staff as a long-term undertaking.
The power to play video games early within the season in Florida would preclude the necessity for a domed stadium, chopping the price of a brand new constructing.
The return of baseball to Montreal, which misplaced the Expos once they moved to Washington, D.C., and have become the Nationals earlier than the 2005 season, has lengthy been speculated and has important help amongst energy brokers within the metropolis, together with Stephen Bronfman, the private-equity magnate whose father, Charles, was the Expos’ authentic proprietor.
A month in the past, Bronfman — who together with Montreal businessman Mitch Garber has expressed curiosity in taking a minority stake within the Rays alongside proprietor Stuart Sternberg — reached an settlement with a developer on a web site in Montreal’s Pointe-Saint-Charles neighborhood to doubtlessly construct a brand new stadium.
“My precedence stays the identical, I’m dedicated to protecting baseball in Tampa Bay for generations to return,” Sternberg mentioned through assertion. “I consider this idea is worthy of great exploration.”
Vital hurdles stay for the plan to take root, sources mentioned. Although two cities sharing a staff is not solely novel — the Expos performed 22 house video games in Puerto Rico in 2003, and Kansas Metropolis and Omaha break up house video games with the NBA’s Kings within the 1970s — the viability of long-term success stays in query.
MLB’s govt council, which incorporates Sternberg, however gave the Rays permission to discover the chance throughout homeowners conferences Wednesday and Thursday.
For greater than a decade, the Rays have sought to construct a brand new stadium in Tampa or St. Petersburg, Florida, the place they presently play at Tropicana Subject. Their lease runs by way of 2027, and a Tampa Bay-Montreal dual-city plan would necessitate discovering a stadium web site in Florida as nicely. The timetable for any potential transfer seemingly is dependent upon whether or not the Rays can strike a deal within the Tampa Bay space for a brand new stadium, sources mentioned.
The Rays’ common attendance of 14,546 is the second lowest within the majors regardless of a 43-31 report. Their Opening Day payroll of round $65 million was among the many lowest in baseball. Among the many problem in securing a brand new stadium, a paucity of native income and a poor local-television deal, the Rays have been seen by different cities as a goal for relocation — a chance ought to the Tampa Bay-Montreal plan fail.
A cope with Montreal would hold the Rays in Florida whereas doubtlessly including important revenues to the franchise. Montreal provides a sturdy company base for sponsorships and a fervent fan base that might help what would quantity to a half-season ticket plan. Different groups might object to the Rays occupying two geographical territories, although the help of the manager council to discover the chance, sources mentioned, constituted a big step ahead.
It’s too early within the course of, sources mentioned, to reply such questions as what the title of the staff could be or the place playoff video games could be held.