Major League Baseball rejected the proposal the Rays had for a split-city plan. The Rays will continue their search for a full-time home in the near future.
Dear Rays Fans, ⁰⁰For 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. — Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) January 20, 2022
It was two and a half years of planning with the expectation of approval to proceed with open-air stadiums in both markets (Montreal and Tampa). The Rays team officials were surprised by the rejection. The lease for Tropicana Field expires in 2027. The new stadium will have to start being built next year so it can be ready for the 2028 season.
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. I am optimistic @RaysBaseball will call Tampa Bay home for many years to come. — Jane Castor (@JaneCastor) January 20, 2022
The team officials had hinted before that if the split-city plan didn’t work out, leaving Tampa would likely be the option. That has seemed to change as officials say they will look around Tampa locations that are available.
WOULD A SPLIT-CITY PLAN WORK?
It honestly didn’t make sense to have a team split time between the Tampa area and Montreal. The Rays barely have attendance at their games as is. The major reason is said to be the location. Although I find it strange how people are willing to find their way to Tropicana Field and fill the stadium when it comes to the playoffs. A relocation should help with the attendance but it isn’t guaranteed even with how good the Rays have been playing.
If the idea is to get baseball back in Montreal, then why not create another team? The baseball fans in Montreal most likely will attend games to watch the Rays during the first year out of excitement. What happens years after if the fans don’t show up? What happens when the Rays aren’t playing as well anymore? If attendance is as low as it currently is, will they make the Florida home full-time? How do you market a team like the Rays to Montreal when the name remains Tampa Bay Rays? Will the Montreal fans feel like the Rays are their home team?
A split-city isn’t going to help the team be able to spend more money on players. Their system on how they build their team is working for now and there is no reason to change it. Is it more attractive to players to know they could be playing in Montreal for half of a season?
These are the questions that came to mind when I saw the split-city idea. To be honest, I think the idea is stupid. Keep the team in one city. I won’t be surprised if the idea comes to the surface again. If not with Montreal then another city. If the Rays plan to remain the “Tampa Bay Rays” they will need to find a home in Tampa. It wasn’t the original plan but it has now become the only plan at the moment. Their time is running out if they want to have the new home ready by Opening Day 2028.