MLB’s Manfred says there’s a sense of urgency in the rough search for Rays

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Baseball officials ‘have a sense of urgency’ to find a new baseball field for the Tampa Bay Rays after scrapping a plan to split seasons between Florida and Montreal when the team’s lease at Tropicana Field expires after the 2027 season.

Major League Baseball gave the Rays the green light in June 2019 to explore the two-city plan, then announced on Jan. 20 that the concept had been rejected.

“They have gone through a period of significant uncertainty about where they will play, which dictates the economic outlook for the franchise,” baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a meeting of owners. “It’s a bad thing. It’s a bad thing for a business. It hampers the ability of the business to operate and the club to operate in the most efficient way.”

The Rays, consistently plagued by one of the lowest home attendances in the major leagues, said in December 2018 that they had abandoned a plan to build a baseball stadium across the bay in the Ybor City area in Tampa.

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch and City of Tampa Mayor Jane Castor hope their communities will be able to develop viable stadium proposals.

“My hope is that Tampa. Tampa Bay and area officials … and the Rays can work together to find a solution that will sustain a full season of baseball in Tampa,” Manfred said. “We believe Tampa is a major league market and we want to find a solution that makes the club economically viable in that market. … I think some of the comments from civic leaders in the area have also been encouraging.”

Tampa Bay principal owner Stuart Sternberg said he currently has no plans to sell the team or seek approval to explore a relocation.

The Rays have played at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida since their inaugural season in 1998.

Since Sternberg took over in October 2005, the once-struggling franchise has been a success on the ground but not at the box office.

The Rays reached the World Series in 2008 and 2020. They averaged around 9,500 for home games last season, 28th in the majors and ahead of only Miami and Oakland.

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