With Montreal no longer an option, the search continues for a new Rays baseball stadium in the Tampa Bay area


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Rays ownership has tried to pitch the sister city plan with Montreal as a way to improve revenue, increase player payrolls and keep the team in Tampa Bay for the long term. .

But Major League Baseball called a third strike on the proposal that didn’t sit well with many Rays fans.

“If that was the only way to keep them for half the year, that would be fine with me, but we would much rather have them for a full season,” said Mark Ferguson, owner of Ferg’s Sports Bar and Grill.

There is no time limit in baseball, but time is running out towards 2027 when the Rays’ lease with Tropicana Field runs out.

As the Rays explore options in the area for a new ballpark, Ferguson said he wants the defending American League East champions to stay on the St. Pete side of the bay.

“We’re a major league city because of the Tampa Bay Rays,” Ferguson said.

At a press conference Thursday, Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg called MLB’s rejection of the split-season plan a “total deflation.” He also said he had no intention of selling the team, nor were the Rays looking to leave Tampa Bay.

“There’s no doubt that MLB and others around the country have noticed what’s happening in Tampa Bay and the growth that’s happened over the past decade,” Sternberg said.

The new mayor of St. Petersburg, Ken Welch, supports the retention of the Rays in his city.

“I am confident that we can partner with the Tampa Bay Rays to create an iconic new, full-time home for Major League Baseball in St. Petersburg while achieving historic equitable economic growth,” Mayor Welch said in a statement. communicated.

Since the Rays began exploring the divided city concept in 2019, Sternberg said the team has been in conversations with elected officials in Tampa and Hillsborough County about a new stadium in Ybor City.

Proponents of relocating the Rays to Tampa for home games say it would make the team more accessible to more baseball fans, especially along the I-4 corridor reaching the Orlando area.

Sternberg said better fan participation and more sponsorships would make construction of the new ballpark easier.

“We’re going to keep trying here in this market,” Sternberg said, “and we’re going to do our best like we’ve done and focus on bringing a winning product to the field. And I still believe that the region is willing and able to do so and is happy to support us in any way possible.”


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