Rays Won't Play Home Games in Montreal After St. Petersburg Breaks Off Talks

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistDecember 4, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - APRIL 16: Kevin Kiermaier #39 of the Tampa Bay Rays runs back to the dugout during a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field on April 16, 2019 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays' idea of splitting their home games between St. Petersburg and Montreal has been put on hold until at least after the 2027 season.

Per a letter from St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman, the Rays and the city "agreed that the best path forward is to abide by the existing use agreement" between the two parties:

"As you know, team officials first began contemplating future stadium locations in St. Pete twelve years ago. With only eight seasons remaining under the use agreement, the Rays will need to decide on their future soon, as it will take several seasons to finalize a future site and build a stadium either here in St. Petersburg or elsewhere.

"As I stated earlier this year, while the City of St. Petersburg is willing to discuss contributing to the funding for a new stadium for a full-time team here in St. Petersburg, we will not contribute public dollars to construct a stadium for a part-time team.

"As such, with no imminent discussions pending regarding a new stadium for a full-time team, we will begin to evaluate our next steps in redeveloping at least parts of the site following additional public engagement."

ESPN's Jeff Passan reported in June that Major League Baseball's executive council gave the Rays permission to explore a two-city home schedule.

Under the Rays' proposed plan, they would play games at Tropicana Field early in the season and shift to Montreal later in the year. It wasn't specified if the two cities would get close to a 50-50 split between the 81 home games the team plays annually.

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said in a statement he remained "committed to keeping baseball in Tampa Bay for generations to come" but also believed this idea was "worthy of serious exploration."

Per John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times, Kriseman said at the time he wasn't going to grant the organization permission to speak with Montreal under terms of the use agreement.

The Rays have been looking for ways to boost their attendance as they continue to struggle to draw fans.

Despite winning 96 games and making the playoffs in 2019, Tampa Bay had the second-lowest average attendance (14,734) and total attendance (1,178,735) in MLB, per ESPN. The franchise has only drawn more than 2 million fans once, in its inaugural season in 1998.

Montreal hasn't had an MLB team since the Expos left following the 2004 season. The Toronto Blue Jays have played two spring training games at Olympic Stadium every year since 2014.