Tampa Bay Rays: Ownership looking ahead to Montreal

ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 29: A general view of Tropicana Field during the Wild Card Round Game One between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays on September 29, 2020 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 29: A general view of Tropicana Field during the Wild Card Round Game One between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays on September 29, 2020 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /
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Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg looks ahead towards 2028.

It’s no secret that MLB owners have been vocal about potential financial implications from the 2020 shortened season without fans. For some clubs, such as the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers, this may seem melodramatic.

For other teams, however, the implications may be more severe. The Tampa Bay Rays, who rank 28th of 30 MLB teams in 2020 payroll, are one of them.

During a recent interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Rays’ principal owner Stuart Sternberg shared his thoughts on the franchise’s potential financial hurdles moving forward.

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Perhaps the most unique dilemma for Tampa Bay’s ownership? The team’s lease at Tropicana Field expires after the 2027 season. And, according to Sternberg, the “only option” is a plan to split seasons between Florida and Montreal beginning in 2028.

Sternberg also confirmed that the team has not been seriously approached by any local groups about building a new stadium and/or buying the team.

“We are getting towards 2028 and you can’t snap your fingers and just have the stadium show up,” he said.

Baseball fans haven’t witnessed MLB play in Montreal since 2004 after the Expos became the Washington Nationals. Currently, for the Rays, the future looks brighter in Canada.

Sternberg discussed the tremendous progress he’s seen over the past few months with stadium plans and dealings by a business group in Canada. The group is led by prospective partner Stephen Bronfman.

The prospect of a Rays’ split season in 2028 seems rather unusual, but according to Sternberg’s recent comments, this idea shouldn’t be seen as impossible.

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In a way, on the heels of the franchise’s second World Series appearance and first since 2008, this news is disappointing. Tampa Bay was the best team in the AL last season, from start to finish, and took the Dodgers to six games in the 2020 Fall Classic. If anyone deserves a city to rally behind its professional baseball team, it’s Tampa Bay Rays fans.