Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg held a press conference Tuesday to publicly discuss the possibility of splitting the team's home games between St. Petersburg and Montreal.
Sternberg pleaded with the public to stay open-minded about the idea while discussing the realities of Tampa Bay's viability.
"In spite of our successes on the field and the development of a growing fan base across this wonderful region, we greatly lag behind the rest of the league," he said. "We are at or near the bottom in every economic category in Major League Baseball.
" ... We are simply not well-suited for a Major League Baseball team that needs to draw tens of thousands of people each of its 81 games to its ballpark ... and to force that to happen here when the conditions are not right could be more than damaging to a team, to Major League Baseball, and, most importantly, to a community. (We must) confront that reality and have a conversation about how to keep baseball here for generations to come."
Sternberg detailed how the plan for Tampa and Montreal to share the team would work, while continually reminding those in attendance that "this is not a staged exit." He stated it would be a "permanent arrangement," with no plan to move full time to either area.
The Rays owner continued to say the proposal would require open-air stadiums in both Tampa and Montreal. He explained the spring weather in Tampa would be hospitable to baseball, while Montreal could comfortably have an outdoor team later in the summer through the remainder of the season. However, Sternberg said he was open to a renovation of Al Lang Stadium, which is located in St. Petersburg and can currently seat 7,500 fans.
The Rays' current lease at Tropicana Field doesn't expire until the end of the 2027 season, and ownership has no plans of breaking that arrangement.
So far through 2019, the Rays sit second-last in attendance per game, averaging roughly 14,500 fans per contest despite their winning record. The only team that sits lower is the fellow Florida club Miami Marlins, who are averaging less than 9,500 fans per game.
The Rays' total attendance has fallen precipitously since hitting 1.8 million fans in 2009. Last year, despite a 90-win season, attendance fell for the sixth consecutive campaign to just over 1.1 million.