The Tampa Bay Rays struck out in their bid to split their season between their home city and Montreal after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman on Wednesday said he would require them to honor their existing stadium lease.
Rays owner Stu Sternberg received Major League Baseball’s permission earlier this year to explore potential stadium options that would allow the team to play a portion of its home games in Montreal. However, Krisemen said he expects the franchise to abide by the terms of its current lease for use of Tropicana Field, which runs through the 2027 season.
“Both parties have agreed that the best path forward is to abide by the existing use agreement,” Kriseman wrote in a memo sent to the St. Petersburg City Council, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “In accordance with the existing use agreement, should the Rays Organization wish to continue exploration of the shared season concept with Montreal, that exploration must be limited to the 2028 season and beyond.”
The Rays have sought alternative stadium options after posting attendance that ranked near the bottom of Major League Baseball in recent years. Sternberg said last June that the Rays were “at or near the bottom in every economic category in Major League Baseball.”
Under the franchise’s plan for a split season, the Rays would have played half of their home games in Florida and half of their games in Montreal. In a statement, Sternberg hinted that the Rays will explore potential relocation when their lease agreement expires.
“First, we do not agree that this is the best path forward. Second, we asked for the opportunity to explore this concept with both St. Petersburg and Montreal, and with Tampa and Montreal,” Sternberg said. “We recognize that we must now consider our post-2027 options and all that entails, and we remain steadfast in our belief that the Sister City concept is deserving of serious consideration.”
The Rays had aimed to have their split season plan in place in time for the 2024 season. The team ranked as baseball’s second-least valuable franchise at $1 billion as of April 2019, according to Forbes’ calculations.
The Rays have played at Tropicana Field since their inaugural season in 1998.