Major League Baseball has turned down the Rays' split-season plan with Montreal
Following the announcement, mayors for both Tampa and St. Petersburg expressed optimism that a new stadium deal could be worked out to keep the Rays in the Tampa Bay area.
The Tampa Bay Rays will no longer have the option to consider splitting its season between Tampa Bay and Montreal.
The Rays announced Thursday that Major League Baseball has nixed the plan to divide their home games between the two cities.
As recently as October, Rays officials have said a split-city plan was the only viable alternative to keeping the Rays in the greater Tampa Bay region — even just part-time.
Stu Sternberg, the team's principal owner, said during a press conference Thursday he didn't "precisely know why, but at the end of the day it was clear MLB was not prepared to go forward" with the split-season plan.
Sternberg said the decision is not prompting him to sell or move the team. He says he has always been committed to keep the Rays in the region, but did not rule out moving after their lease at Tropicana Field runs out after the 2027 season.
Both Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch issued statements following the announcement. Both expressed optimism that one of their cities can work out a new stadium agreement with the Rays after the Trop lease expires.
"All along our goal has been to keep the Rays in Tampa Bay," Castor said in her statement. "We had been working on both sister city and full season proposals, and now we can focus all of our energy on a full season. I am optimistic the Rays will call Tampa Bay home for many years to come."
All along our goal has been to keep the Rays in Tampa Bay. We had been working on both sister city and full season proposals, and now we can focus all of our energy on a full season.— Jane Castor (@JaneCastor) January 20, 2022
I am optimistic @RaysBaseball will call Tampa Bay home for many years to come.
Welch, who was sworn in as St. Pete's mayor two weeks ago, said: “We are working with our (Pinellas) county partners and City Council to put together the best plan possible, which will work in conjunction with my planned evolution of the Tropicana Field master development proposals. With this collaborative approach, I am confident we can partner with the Tampa Bay Rays to create a new and iconic full-time home for Major League Baseball in St. Petersburg while also achieving historic equitable economic growth.”
Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman also expressed hope the Rays would remain in the Tampa Bay area.
If we are looking at the future of this team, we have to look at the future of this City and this region, and the future is bright. The possibilities on the Trop Site still make it the best location for a new stadium. So now we look forward...— Rick Kriseman (@Kriseman) January 20, 2022
Plans to redevelop the Tropicana Field site are continuing, and could be modified to include a new stadium.
The team is also exploring a new, enclosed stadium in Ybor City, but the cost could top $1 billion. Funding for that stadium has yet to be worked out.
Sternberg issued the following statement on the Rays' Facebook page:
Dear Rays Fans,
For more than two decades, the Rays have proudly served as Tampa Bay’s hometown team, supporting our community and uplifting our growing region. Our priorities are to win baseball games and keep the team in Tampa Bay for generations to come.
Today’s news that MLB’s executive council has rejected our Sister City plan is painful. We had focused our full attention to that effort. We know that questions about our future in Tampa Bay will continue to surface, and there are no simple, immediate answers. What we can provide is our continued pledge to field winning teams, to invest in our community and to contribute to Tampa Bay being a great place to call home.
I am very grateful for the open-mindedness, support and encouragement we received from across Tampa Bay during our Sister City efforts. If we harness that momentum and build upon it, together we will keep the Rays here in Champa Bay for generation upon generation.
--Stuart Sternberg, Principal Owner
WUSF reporter Steve Newborn contributed to this report.