A wild pitch from Montreal: Split the Rays with Tampa Bay
If Montreal interests can't get the Rays to relocate, would they want them as part-time guests?
A creative, if not desperate, idea to bring baseball back to Montreal was floated today in the the French language newspaper La Presse — buying the Rays and having them play half their home games in Canada and half in the Tampa Bay area.
The idea of "joint ownership" and "shared custody" is said to be circulating "behind the scenes'' among Montreal baseball interests, François Cardinal writes.
The article includes discussion of the benefits of such a plan, minimizing costs for the prospective Montreal owners ($300-million rather than $600-million) and allowing for maximization of TV revenues with two seperate contracts.
But Cardinal also acknowledges what would be one of the major issues, that the costs of building a new stadium would be offset by only half the usual revenue from a full schedule of games.
Also, he admits, there has been no discussion with the Rays or with Major League Baseball. Also worth noting, we can add, is that the Players Association would have big concerns about that type of arrangement.
The Rays are currently working to find a new stadium site in the Tampa Bay area, having recently been given permission to look in Tampa. Principal owner Stuart Sternberg and top officials have said repeatedly their focus is a long-term solution in the Tampa Bay area. Rays officials declined comment on the Montreal report.
Below is a Google translation of the article into English:
"Major players in the business world reflect a new proposal: to buy half of the Tampa Bay Rays ... for they play half their games in Montreal.
"According to information obtained by La Presse, the idea of "joint ownership" of Rays with the current owners circulates behind the scenes, not to completely relocate the team to Montreal, but to have "shared custody" in some so.
"The Rays would play half their games of the season "regular" in Montreal and the other half in Tampa. One way to help the club in Florida and reduce the bill for potential buyers, here.
"The bite would be less fat, says a source involved in the reflection. You do not have to sign a check for 600 million US, but 300 million. That would dampen spending, but also the risk, given that the team would be attached to both markets simultaneously. "
"The idea is original, but not as unique as you might think. There are of course those teams playing a few games away. Think of the Buffalo Bills, NFL, who have played eight games in Toronto in recent years, or the Expos, who have shared their time between Montreal and Puerto Rico in 2003.
"But there are two more examples that still look like a true cohabitation.
"The Boston Braves have played a few games "home" ... in Montreal. In 1918, the war undermined the audience MLB. The Braves had then tried an unusual experience: play their parts Sunday here in the metropolis. An experience that has not had the expected success and that ended abruptly after two games.
"And in the NFL, the current owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars dream to make his team play every year in England, possibly two games per season, which would make London his second home port. Rising incomes and popularity of the team since its incursions at Wembley Stadium, in recent years, explains this interest in more cohabitation, according to the BBC.
"That said, here too, the proposed project is only the reflection stage. But already, scenarios are scaffolded to expand the business plan. Scenarios that rely on an increase in revenues of TV rights and sponsorships.
"With a team at halftime, we think we can maximize the total value of television rights, given that home games would interest both cities simultaneously (preliminary estimates provide for 15 million revenue, twice).
"It also expects an increase in total sponsorship revenue since each city will have its sponsor (we hope to be able to fetch 5 to 10 million for each of the cities).
"There would be no 50% discount for the sponsor because the TV rights are sold to two different broadcasters. It's win-win! "Said an anonymous source.
"Note that neither the owners nor the Rays Major League Baseball still have not been approached. Still, we work hard at the top of Montreal inc. to mount a business model that we hope persuasive.
"No written proposal has yet been produced, but the thinking is advanced enough to provide a script for the series. Thus it is proposed to alternating rounds: 1st round in Tampa, second in Montreal, third in Tampa. The following year, it would be the opposite. As for income, they would be shared half and half.
"The biggest challenge, believe the proponents of this project will be to convince the League. "You have to ask. Especially that this solution could be applied to other markets where the audiences are waiting for you. "
"But on learning of the proposal, it is easy to conclude that the main stumbling node is also a prerequisite to the project: construction of a new stadium in the Peel Basin. A stage erected for 41 games instead of 82, with public money possibly.
"Forty games is little, right? "There are 82 hockey games per year ... 41 in Montreal. It's not unlike the scenario envisaged for the Rays, "retorts are we.
"In addition, the reduced number of games played in Montreal would create a scarcity effect that would increase the audience, both here in Tampa, it is believed. "We would have a higher percentage of both filling stadiums for every game. Of around 15% more on average than what would be obtained with a 82-game schedule. "
"The idea of Dominic Therrien might be privileged to finance a new stadium. This lawyer suggests increasing the amount charged to immigrant investors to pay for new sports equipment.''