Major League Baseball has made a decision on the Tampa Bay Rays' plan to play in Montreal and their home city. On Thursday, MLB's executive council rejected the Rays' "Sister City" baseball plan two years and seven months after giving the team preliminary approval to pursue the idea of playing half their future home games in the Tampa Bay area and the other half in Montreal. This decision comes as their use agreement at Tropicana Field expires after the 2027 season.
"We're certainly gonna be exploring things in the Tampa Bay region," Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said, per ESPN. "I've said since I've owned the team for 17 years that our goal has been to keep it here for generations and generations. We have tried in the past to build in St. Petersburg, we've tried to build full season in Tampa, as well, so the idea that it wouldn't work completely is not necessarily the way our approach has been. We felt this [the 'sister city' plan] was a much better approach, and something that ensured that it would work. We'll see how the stands look this year and the support we get, and that's gonna help inform us, as well, going forward on our plans."
The Rays were granted permission to explore the idea in June 2019. At the time, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said the aim would be "to preserve baseball in Tampa, but improve the economics of the club overall by playing some of their games in Montreal." But Manfred also noted that there was "no commitment on the part of the owners to ultimately approve a plan."
Had the plan been approved by the league, there would have been two new ballparks built — an open air-stadium in Tampa Bay and another in Montreal. The Rays would split the regular season home games evenly but would have spring training in Florida.
"We believe in our Sister City plan. Major League Baseball believes in it fully. It's the best and possibly only chance for baseball to be here for generations," Rays President Matt Silverman said on This Week in Rays Baseball last September. "That's been our sole focus. It's never been about other markets and relocation overtures. It's always been about how we can make it work here. The Rays began playing in 1998 and have won four division titles and reached World Series twice. Montreal had an MLB team for 35 years. The Montreal Expos played from 1969 to 2004. The team moved to Washington D.C. in 2005 and was renamed the Washington Nationals.