Montreal hasn’t had an MLB team for 15 years. Tampa Bay might change that by splitting its home games
Most people would love a home up north and a place down in Florida where they could split their time.
Many baseball players already do it — with a month and half or so at spring training before heading to their home city for the regular season.
But the Tampa Bay Rays, an American League team with low attendance and an uninspiring stadium, are exploring the possibility of playing some of their homestands in future seasons in St. Petersburg, Florida, and some 1,500 miles away in Montreal.
There hasn’t been a major league baseball team in Montreal since 2004 when the Expos left for Washington. The city is host to two spring training games each year at 43-year-old Olympic Stadium, where they draw about 22,000-24,000 people for each contest.
“My priority remains the same, I am committed to keeping baseball in Tampa Bay for generations to come,” Rays owner Stu Sternberg said, according to a tweet posted to the team’s verified account. “I believe this concept is worthy of serious exploration.”
Speaking at a meeting of owners of the 30 teams, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that the executive committee has given the Rays “permission to explore” a split season between Florida and Montreal.
“The purpose of a split season would be to preserve baseball in Tampa, but improve the economics of the club overall by playing some of their games in Montreal,” Manfred said. “There is no commitment on the part of the owners to ultimately approve a plan. The permission that was granted was simply permission to explore this alternative in an effort to strengthen a franchise that has performed great on the field but continues to be pretty limited from an economic perspective.”
The Rays are 29th in MLB attendance with an average of 14,545 tickets sold or distributed, according to an ESPN.com chart. That means Tropicana Field, a domed stadium that opened in 1990, is about one-third full for most games. The Rays are in second place in the American League East.
There hasn’t been a team that split its home game since the Expos played some “home” contests in Puerto Rico in 2003 and 2004.