Rays to display Montreal sign during playoffs amid shared custody reports

Members of the Tampa Bay Rays take batting practice at Tropicana Field before a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays Friday, July 24, 2020, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (Chris O'Meara/AP)

The Tampa Bay Rays are planning to hang a Montreal sign at Tropicana Field during the MLB post-season, fuelling reports of a future shared custody between the two cities for the club.

Rays team president Matt Silverman said Saturday on the This Week in Rays Baseball radio show that the "very simple Tampa Bay/Montreal graphic" will be displayed in foul territory near right field.

"Especially with the eyes of baseball on us this October, we want that visible symbol of our plan and our excitement for it," Silverman said. "It'll mark the effort subtlely and keep the focus on winning and winning games in October."

The Rays currently hold a 96-59 record and clinched the AL East Division title Saturday. Their lease at Tropicana Field, located in St. Petersburg, Fla., expires after the 2027 season.

"The focus has really shifted to the positives of this idea and what it can unlock," Silverman said. "It's about beautiful open-air ballparks and games when the weather is ideal. It's a public facility that can host baseball, soccer, football, graduation, concerts, you name it. It's about a connection with Montreal that will only be additive to our local economy in terms of jobs, tourism, commerce. ...

"Montreal, to us, is the best city to partner with because of the weather patterns, the east coast time zone, ... Canada's historic presence, tourism market and economic partner. Those things may not be a top priority for our fans, but it's very important to our elected officials who are getting behind this."

Silverman said MLB believes fully in their sister city plan, too.

"It's the best and possibly only chance for baseball to be here for generations," Silverman said. "That's been our sole focus. It's never been about other markets and relocation overtures. It's always been about how we can make it work here. ... There's been an encouraging shift among our fans and community and a real openness about the plan.

"[Tampa] mayor [Jane] Castor was the first official who spoke up and expressed openness and more voices are joining that chorus and I'm more optimistic today than I've ever been that we're going to make this happen and we're going to secure the real future here in Tampa Bay for decades to come."

Silverman's comments came on the heels of a report in Le Journal de Montreal with St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman saying the team was in favour of splitting the season in Montreal.

“The Rays are really interested in playing the start of the season here in St. Petersburg and the rest of the campaign in Montreal," Kriseman said. "They’re seriously considering this option."

Le Journal also reported negotiations continue to take place between Quebec businessman Stephen Bronfman, the executive chairman of Claridge Inc., and the provincial government regarding a new stadium. Bronfman had been looking to acquiring land in the Peel Basin area of Montreal.

"Don’t have to say we need to be ready," Stephen Bronfman told the Canadian Press in 2019. "We are ready."

"The frustration is just time," he added. "This is a life-long project, so if it takes another year, that’s fine because it’ll come."

His father, Charles Bronfman, owned the Montreal Expos from their inception in 1968 to 1990.

Montreal has been without a baseball franchise since the Expos moved in 2004 and became the Washington Nationals. Olympic Stadium has hosted exhibition games since then from 2014-19.

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