Published: Fri, June 21, 2019
Sports | By Brett Lawson

Rays get MLB OK to explore regular-season games in Montreal

Rays get MLB OK to explore regular-season games in Montreal

Major League Baseball's executive council has given the Rays the "permission to explore" a split season between Tampa Bay and Montreal, commissioner Rob Manfred announced at the conclusion of the owners' meetings Thursday in Midtown.

The Rays are open to the two-city solution to save baseball in Tampa Bay after years of lobbying for a new stadium in the area.

According to sources, the Rays would play in new stadiums in both the Tampa Bay area and Montreal.

The plan is still in very early stages and significant hurdles remain, ESPN said.

Sources tell ESPN that Bronfman and Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg have already reached an agreement with a developer for a potential new stadium in Montreal's Pointe-Saint-Charles neighborhood.

The Rays, meanwhile, have struggled with attendance at Tropicana Field and have been unable to get efforts off the ground in building a new ballpark in the Tampa area.

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For one thing, the plan would apparently involve constructing not one but TWO new stadiums (one in Montreal, and a new, dome-less (cheaper) stadium in Tampa/St. Petersburg).

Manfred said it's too soon to detail the particulars - as in, where the team would play post-season games, or in what stadiums. But he says he also believes "this concept" - referring to some kind of Montreal split - "is worthy of serious exploration".

In an eyebrow-raising development, Major League Baseball has granted authorization to the Tampa Bay Rays to explore the possibility of becoming a two-city franchise. The Rays have played at Tropicana Field since their inception in 1998 and drew their lowest home crowd of 5,786 against Toronto last month.

The return of baseball to Montreal, which lost the Expos when they moved to Washington and became the Nationals before the 2005 season, has always been speculated and has significant support among power brokers in the city, including Stephen Bronfman, the private-equity magnate whose father, Charles, was the Expos' original owner.

"We have been hard at work for several years examining how we can bring baseball back to Montreal in a sustainable manner", Bronfman said in a statement.

The Rays, despite winning 90 games last season and standing in second place in the American League East, continue to rank at the bottom of the league in attendance.

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