Report: Rays’ owner pushing hard for split season in Montreal by 2028

Tampa Bay Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg greets people before a press conference at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla., Tuesday, June 25, 2019. Sternberg spoke about exploring the prospect of playing some future home games in Montreal. (Scott Keeler/AP)

At MLB’s Winter Meetings on Tuesday, Tampa Bay Rays primary owner Stuart Sternberg referred to the possibility of his team someday playing part of its season in Montreal more as a “when” than an “if.”

Speaking to Tampa Bay Times reporter Marc Topkin, Sternberg said this of his team’s half-and-half plan: “Something we would have liked to have happen in 2024-25 will happen in 2028.”

The Rays’ stadium deal at Tropicana Field expires at the close of the 2027 season, which explains Sternberg’s 2028 target date. In a previous Tampa Bay Times report, Sternberg had been hopeful that the Rays could begin splitting time in Montreal as early as 2024.

St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman quashed that idea and Sternberg has since said the Rays intend to honour the agreement.

In Topkin’s latest story, Sternberg said a sharing plan between Montreal and south Florida has “the opportunity to be relatively successful,” with the potential to average 25,000 fans in each market.

But if the half-and-half plan with Montreal doesn’t work, Sternberg doesn’t intend to move the team to Montreal full time because he believes “there are better full-time markets than Montreal.” Other such markets that have already been discussed are Las Vegas, Nashville, Portland, Charlotte and Orlando.

For now, a split-season arrangement with Montreal and south Florida is the vision for the future — but lots of work is left to be done. Atop the to-do list is gauging the opportunity for open-air stadiums in both markets. Within two or three years, the future playing destination(s) of the Rays must be solidified.

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