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With Montreal no longer an option, search continues for new Rays ballpark in Tampa Bay area

WFLA
WFLA
 2022-01-21

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

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

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

There’s no time limit in baseball, but the clock is ticking toward 2027 when the Rays lease with Tropicana Field runs out.

As the Rays explore options around the region for a new ballpark, Ferguson said he wants the reigning American League East champions to remain on the St. Pete side of the bay.

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

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At a news conference Thursday, Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg called MLB’s rejection of the split season plan “flat out deflating.” He also said he has no intention of selling the team nor are the Rays looking to leave Tampa Bay.

“There’s no doubt that MLB and others in the country have taken notice on what’s happening in Tampa Bay and the growth that’s happened over the last decade,” Sternberg said.

St. Petersburg’s new Mayor Ken Welch is throwing his support behind keeping the Rays in his city.

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

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

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Supporters 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 into the Orlando area.

Sternberg said better fan attendance and more sponsorships would make it easier to build the new ballpark.

“We’re gonna keep trying here in this market,” Sternberg said, “and we’re gonna do our best as we have been and focus on putting a winning product on the field. And I still do believe that the region is willing to and able to and is looking forward to supporting us in every way it can.”

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