Rays Exploring Splitting Home Games Between Tampa Bay and Montreal

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJune 20, 2019

FILE - In this June 17, 2016, file photo, the crowd on Pride Night at Tropicana Field watches during the fifth inning of a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the San Francisco Giants in St. Petersburg, Fla. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is willing to wait - to a point - for the Rays and Oakland Athletics to get new ballparks. Tampa Bay and Oakland are the only two major league teams currently seeking new stadiums. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)
Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

In their search for ways to boost attendance, the Tampa Bay Rays have looked into splitting time between Florida and Canada.

Per ESPN.com's Jeff PassanMajor League Baseball's executive council has granted the Rays permission to explore a plan that would allow them to start the season playing home games in Tampa Bay and finish their home schedule in Montreal. 

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed the Rays have been granted permission to explore the plan, per MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman informed the team he would not let them have talks with Montreal as the Rays have an agreement with the city until 2027, according to John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times.

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg issued a statement about the situation: "My priority remains the same, I am committed to keeping baseball in Tampa Bay for generations to come. I believe this concept is worthy of serious exploration."

Passan noted the plan is still in the "nascent stages" and that "significant hurdles" remain before the Rays' plan can be put into action. 

There would be potential benefits for the Rays and MLB in the event they can get approval for the two-city idea. 

During the All-Star break last year, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told FS1's First Things First the league has ideas for host cities, including Montreal, if the league decides to expand beyond 30 teams:

Moving the Rays part-time to Montreal wouldn't be a full expansion, but it would give MLB a consistent presence in the city for the first time since the Expos moved to Washington, D.C. in 2004. 

The Expos were the last MLB team that split time between two host cities, playing 22 home games during the 2003 season in Puerto Rico. 

Passan added the Rays' plan would include new stadiums in Tampa Bay and Montreal. 

Tropicana Field has consistently ranked as one of the worst MLB stadiums due to its unfavorable location and a poor layout, including catwalks that often disrupt play. 

The Rays have always struggled to draw fans, only breaking 2 million in attendance once in its inaugural season. Their average attendance of 14,545 this season ranks last in the American League and 29th in MLB. 

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