Rays owner 'can't envision' team staying in Tampa full time

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The Tampa Bay Rays may not be relocating on a part-time or permanent basis anytime soon, but owner Stuart Sternberg isn't optimistic about his team's future in Central Florida.

Sternberg is still a believer in the Rays' unique plan to split time between Tampa and Montreal - a proposal that isn't going to happen until 2028 at the earliest. With talks to build a new stadium in Tampa now stalled, Sternberg believes the time-sharing arrangement with Montreal is the only way baseball will be viable in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area long term.

"I'm open to any (stadium) conversation (with Tampa and St. Pete)," Sternberg told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. "They'd have to show me why it would work. We did work previously, we spent years on it. Some of the really solid business leaders, earnestly, and in a caring fashion, tried to make it work.

"But if there's a genie in a bottle somewhere that wants to show me why it would work - I just can't envision it. You never say never, but I can't envision it. It's less than highly unlikely."

The Rays recently abandoned talks with the city of St. Petersburg that would have allowed them to start the Montreal experiment before their lease at Tropicana Field expires in 2027.

Meanwhile, the Montreal group working to bring the Rays north of the border - led by businessman Stephen Bronfman, whose father Charles was the Expos' founding owner - has indicated it's still committed to making the plan work.

"I’m more concerned about the viability in Tampa Bay than I am in Montreal,'' Sternberg added, even while acknowledging his belief that Montreal may not work as a full-time home for the team.

"I could be proven wrong. But we've tried a couple of times in Tampa Bay. And the indications already I'm getting from Montreal are dramatically north of what we've seen in Tampa Bay. Maybe that’s because they don't have a team and they want one, but whatever the catalyst, that’s where we are.''

Sternberg did note that he's not explored any form of full-time relocation, either to Montreal or to other cities pursuing MLB teams such as Las Vegas and nearby Orlando. He also confirmed that he's not interested in selling the Rays, and that he'd only look to do so if relocation was his last remaining option.

Tampa Bay finished 29th in attendance in 2019, averaging 14,734 fans in the regular season. Before the year began, the team cordoned off sections of Tropicana Field's upper deck, lowering the stadium's baseball capacity to 25,000 - by far the smallest in MLB.

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Rays owner 'can't envision' team staying in Tampa full time
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