Baseball officials “have a sense of urgency” to find a new ballpark 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 following the 2027 season.
Major League Baseball gave the Rays the go-ahead in June 2019 to explore the two-city plan, then announced Jan. 20 that the concept had been rejected.
“They have been in a substantial period of uncertainty as to where they’re going to play, which in turn dictates that economic outlook for the franchise,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after an owners’ meeting. “That’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 the most effective way.”
The Rays, perenially plagued by among the lowest home attendance in the major leagues, said in December 2018 that they had abandoned a plan to build a ballpark across the bay in Tampa’s Ybor City area.
Both St. Petersburg mayor Ken Welch and city of Tampa mayor Jane Castor are hopeful their communities will be able to develop viable stadium proposals.
“My hope is that Tampa. the officials in Tampa Bay and the region … and the Rays can work together to find a solution that’ll keep a full-season of baseball in Tampa,” Manfred said. “We think 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 region have also been encouraging.”
Tampa Bay principal owner Stuart Sternberg said he has no current plans to sell the team or request permission to explore relocation.
The Rays have played Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida since their inaugural season in 1998.
Since Sternberg took control in October 2005, the once-struggling franchise has been a success on the field but not at the box office.
The Rays reached the World Series in 2008 and 2020. They averaged about 9,500 for home games last season, 28th in the majors and ahead of only Miami and Oakland.