It might soon be time to root, root, root for the home team.
According to a report from ESPN, the financially-struggling Tampa Bay Rays have received permission from Major League Baseball to “explore a plan in which they would play early-season home games in the Tampa Bay area and the remainder of the year in Montreal.”
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After years of failed attempts to build a new stadium in Tampa Bay (sound familiar, Expos fans?), the Rays have acknowledged that playing home games split among two cities may be the only way to save their 21-year-old franchise.
Don’t forget, the Montreal Expos played 22 of their 81 home games in San Juan, Puerto Rico during their penultimate season in 2003.
The return of professional baseball to ‘La belle province’ has picked up steam lately thanks to Spring Training exhibition games courtesy of the Toronto Blue Jays and significant support from brokers in the city, headed by Stephen Bronfman, the son of formers Expos owner Chalres Bronfman.
Under the plan, as per ESPN, the Rays would play in new stadiums split between time in Tampa Bay and Montreal.
Florida’s climate would cut the necessity of playing in a domed stadium in Montreal during the MLB’s early spring months and mid-summer games in Montreal would be expected to flourish under the city’s vibrant tourism scene.
Members of MLB’s executive council gave the Rays organization permission to explore the sister-city possibility with Montreal, with reported meetings this week.
The Rays currently play out of Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida and their lease runs through 2027. For the dual-city plan to work, a new stadium site in Florida would need to be found and executed.
According to ESPN’s sources, a timetable for any potential moves depends on whether “the Rays can strike a deal in the Tampa Bay area for a new stadium.”
It’s too early in the process, according to sources, to answer other questions as to the potential name of the hybrid team, where playoff games would be held, or the amount of games split between the Canadian and American cities.
For now, here’s hoping that home plate might soon be closer to home.