MONTREAL — A recent admission from the office of the mayor of St. Petersburg, Fla. has put a big smile on the face of the man trying to bring a Major League Baseball team back to Montreal.
On Wednesday night, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Mayor Rick Kriseman admitted to being formally asked for permission by the Tampa Bay Rays to explore the possibility of playing part of the team’s season in Montreal.
"This is another positive step in this story of the possibility of Major League Baseball coming back to Montreal!" said Stephen Bronfman in an email exchange with The Canadian Press on Thursday.
Bronfman, who is at the helm of a group trying to bring an MLB team back to the city, has been trying to avoid making waves and rarely comments on decisions taken by the league or the Rays.
Stuart Sternberg, principal owner of the Rays, first talked about the project last June when he said sharing a season with Montreal was the best option for his team. The idea was to have the Rays play half of their 81 home games in Tampa and half in Montreal.
A few days before Sternberg’s announcement, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred had said the Rays have "broad permission to explore what’s available."
But the project was facing a big obstacle: St. Petersburg’s mayor had shot down the two-city possibility last June. The Rays had signed an exclusive lease with the city for all the team’s home games until 2027.
Before Wednesday’s news it was never clear whether the team had formally asked the city if it could go forward with the project. The Tampa Bay Times reported that the Rays formally requested to share half a season with Montreal before the end of the lease.
It was an oral request from the team, the Times reported, not a written one. The Rays didn’t want to comment on the news but last June, Sternberg had mentioned the 2024 season as the start of the potential partnership with Montreal.
The next step for Bronfman’s group is to buy a plot of land for sale in Montreal, known as the Peel Basin, where they are hoping to build a 32,000-seat stadium.
Bronfman said last May that a real estate development firm, Devimco, would be responsible for the purchase of the land and would partner with his firm to develop the 950,000-square-foot site.