Everything you need to know about Rays, Montreal and stadiums

A handy Q&A to get you up to speed on Tampa Bay’s never-ending search for a baseball stadium for the Rays.
Remember this place? This was the original Ybor City concept for a full-time team with a roof that was unveiled by the team in 2017 and died a premature death in 2018.
Remember this place? This was the original Ybor City concept for a full-time team with a roof that was unveiled by the team in 2017 and died a premature death in 2018. [ Courtesy of Populous Architects ]
Published Jan. 20, 2022|Updated Jan. 21, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG — Feeling a little overwhelmed by the Rays news today that there will be no split season with Montreal? Wondering what this means for Tampa Bay’s baseball team? We’ve got your answers here:

So what the heck happened?

MLB’s executive council rejected the Rays request to move forward with the sister city plan with Montreal. Of all the hurdles the Rays had to clear, this was supposed to be the easiest. MLB approved the exploration of the plan more than two years ago and gave no immediate reason for not allowing them to go forward.

Does that mean the Rays are staying in Tampa Bay full time?

In the short term, yes. They still have a use agreement at Tropicana Field that runs until the end of the 2027 season. The better question is what happens long term.

Okay, so what happens? Will they build a new stadium in Tampa Bay?

After insisting for two years that Tampa Bay was not a viable full-time solution, the Rays are now saying they will consider all options. And that includes a full-time stadium in Tampa Bay. The problem is a full-time stadium with a roof would likely cost more than $1 billion and the Rays could not come to agreement with city/county officials on a public/private financing plan on the original Ybor City proposal back in 2018. And that’s when the cost was more like $900 million.

Related: Tampa Bay is rid of the in-laws in Montreal, but has a stadium mess at home

What about St. Petersburg? Is the Tropicana Field site back on the table?

Again, the Rays say they will consider all options. They clearly prefer downtown Tampa as a location, but the Trop site has plenty of room and financing options. There’s also a new mayor in St. Pete — Ken Welch — which could alleviate what had become a contentious relationship with the city.

Are there other sites in Tampa Bay?

Yes, the same old standbys. The Al Lang Stadium site, the Hard Rock/fairgrounds area, the Westshore district, Derby Lane. All of those sites have been considered in the past and dismissed for various reasons. Owner Stu Sternberg, however, did say that the location of the stadium was not as critical moving forward as he once suggested years ago.

If a stadium isn’t built in Tampa Bay, will the Rays leave?

Sternberg says he is not considering moving the team at this point. But he also does not want to be playing in front of 6,000 fans at Tropicana Field in 2028. Draw your own conclusions.

Related: Tampa Bay leaders react to news that MLB has dashed Rays’ sister-city dream

Teams do not often move in MLB. Is that really a possibility?

The Montreal Expos have been the only baseball franchise to relocate in the past 50 years. So, no, MLB does not like the idea of teams moving. On the other hand, the NFL, NBA and NHL have seen more than a dozen relocations in the past 30 years. And MLB recently gave the Athletics permission to pursue options outside of Oakland.

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So are we doomed? Is this story going to end badly?

Not necessarily. Stadiums usually do not get built until a situation looks dire. But we are getting closer to that point.

Is there a deadline?

Other than the end of the lease in October of 2027, no. But it usually takes a year or more to secure financing, then up to three years to build a stadium. So if Tampa Bay wants a stadium to be ready for the Rays when the lease ends, the clock is already ticking.

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