The Tampa Bay Rays are exploring a plan in which they would play their early-season home games in Tampa Bay and the remainder of the year in Montreal, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
The Rays have receiver permission from Major League Baseball to start the exploration process, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced on Thursday.
The Rays are going this route as an attempt to save baseball in the Tampa Bay area after failing to build a new stadium in the area of the past few years, seeing the two-city approach as a way to accomplish their goal of keeping baseball in Tampa.
Although the number of home games that each of the two cities would get is undetermined, the Rays would play in new stadiums in both the Tampa Bay and Montreal areas.
The plan is considered a long-term project, and this approach would preclude the need for a domed stadium in Florida, which could help push the creation of a new stadium as not needing a dome would cut costs.
Montreal lost the Expos prior to the 2005 season when the team moved to Washington and became the Nationals, and the city has been looking at bringing baseball back to Montreal ever since.
“My priority remains the same, I am committed to keeping baseball in Tampa Bay for generations to come,” Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said in an official statement. “I believe this concept is worthy of serious exploration.”
Despite success this season, the Rays’ average attendance of 14,546 is the second lowest in the majors, and their Opening Day payroll of around $65 million was among the lowest in the majors.
The Rays have struggled to land a new stadium and a paucity of local revenue and a poor local-television deal, which has led to relocation rumors.
Relocation may be the outcome should this dual city approach doesn’t yield results.