Rays eye what's next after MLB's decision to kill Montreal plan

MLB's decision to kill the Rays’ proposed plan to split seasons in Montreal "stunned team officials," who had worked 2.5 years since getting initial approval to "explore the project, anticipating league approval to proceed with the tougher challenges in getting open-air stadiums built in both markets," according to Marc Topkin of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. Team officials said Thursday that they "now will reluctantly head down a path they have explored -- and dismissed -- previously: seeking a new full-time home in the Tampa Bay area." Topkin wrote they "don’t have much time to do so." The lease agreement at Tropicana Field expires after the '27 season and plans to build a new ballpark would "likely need to be in place" by '23 to be ready for Opening Day '28. The Rays said that they have "no immediate plans to ask permission from MLB to explore relocation to another market," nor does Owner Stuart Sternberg have "any intention to sell the team." Sternberg said that they would "take some time to regroup, then decide how to proceed," noting he would "'look at the stands' to see if attendance picks up this season and that they were likely to consider many options throughout the Tampa Bay area." The team previously "strongly hinted" that if a split season plan did not happen, leaving Tampa Bay would be a "more likely scenario than remaining here full time" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/20).

WHAT'S NEXT? In Tampa, Cridlin, Frago & Bowen wrote Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, Hillsborough County officials and the Tampa Sports Authority have been "working on a financial package for a stadium proposed on the western edge of Ybor City." Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan on Thursday said that he "wasn’t surprised" that MLB "put the kibosh on the split-season concept." He added that it is why the city, county and Sports Authority have "been preparing a proposal for the team to remain in Tampa year round," rather than "just for its spring training and early season games." Cridlin, Frago & Bowen wrote the idea now is to "refine that plan, focusing on the former Kforce corporate headquarters site -- because the Rays selected it -- and potentially other Ybor City locations to present to the team" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/20).

SLAP IN THE FACE: In Montreal, Herb Zurkowsky wrote Stephen Bronfman, who was heading up the Montreal side of the plan, was "frustrated, emotional and upset" at MLB's decisions. Bronfman said, "We all got slapped in the face. We all got the same surprise together. I’m just tired and a little upset. We had something so good. I think a lot of people in sports would have been listening to us." Bronfman: "At this point, I kind of put my hands in the air. I was really sold on the project we were working on. It’s not happening. I’ve not given much thought to anything else" (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 1/20).'s Shi Davidi wrote expansion is "now likely [Montreal's] primary pathway" to getting an MLB team, and Bronfman, at least in the moment, "didn’t seem keen on leading the charge." Bronfman spoke of “taking a break” to "let the dust settle and 'see what happens.'" Bronfman was not "ready to proclaim" that Montreal was "ready and able to support 81 games, either." Davidi: "Reasonable to question at this point is how willing Major League Baseball is to satisfy that desire, especially given how both Bronfman and Sternberg, during a separate availability, sounded blindsided by the decision" (, 1/20).

STARTING OVER: In Tampa, John Romano wrote the area has "been cut loose from the burning plane," but they are "still in desperate need of a parachute." While the marketplace is "forever rid of an unpopular plan," it is "now left with no plan at all." That could be a "necessary first step toward something wonderful," but it "comes with risks, too." The Tampa market still has a "serious attendance problem." Romano: "Which means we have a stadium problem. Which means we have a money problem." The reason the Rays came up with the Montreal proposal was because they had "already failed to generate enough interest and/or investments to build a stadium." This is "not the fault of local politicians." Nor is it the "fault of Rays fans." It is "borne of the economic gap between Tampa Bay and most MLB markets" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/20). WFAN’s Boomer Esiason said of the rejected plan, “Why don’t they just move the franchise?” Esiason said the Rays “should go to Portland" (“Boomer and Gio,” WFAN, 1/21).

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: June 24, 2022

Excel Sports scores at NBA Draft; Breaking down year one of the USFL; DP World Tour finally states its LIV Golf policy and big names in sports invest in Jackpot.

SBJ Unpacks: Thaddeus Young, NBA forward and venture capitalist

SBJ's Austin Karp posted up with NBA power forward Thaddeus Young. The 15-year veteran discussed his venture capital strategy, his investment in technology and much more.

SBJ Spotlight: Predicting which U.S. cities will host World Cup matches

SBJ Facilities Writer Bret McCormick and Soccer Writer Alex Silverman say five U.S. cities are locks to host World Cup matches in 2026. But they have different ideas when it comes to the rest of the field.

Shareable URL copied to clipboard!

Sorry, something went wrong with the copy but here is the link for you.