MLB shuts down sister city plan, telling Tampa Bay Rays to find permanent home

MLB shuts down sister city plan, telling Tampa Bay Rays to find permanent home

The inside of Tropicana Field, home of the baseball team the Tampa Bay Rays. Lit with orange ceiling and green grass after a game

The Tampa Bay Rays had been aggressively pursuing a plan that would split the team’s time between Tampa Bay and Montreal once their lease at Tropicana Field runs out in 2027. The MLB put an end to that plan and told the Rays they need to be in one place full time.

Over the last year, it had seemed to grow more and likely that the future of the Tampa Bay Rays was a “sister city” concept splitting the season between the Tampa Bay Area and Montreal. Today, however, it was announced that the MLB shut that plan down, telling the Rays they must commit to a permanent home. The only question now is: where will that home be?

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While a move away from Tampa Bay is possible, Rays ownership contends for now that the organization expects to stay in the area, despite previous indications they could leave if the sister city concept didn’t pan out. If the team does stay, however, it will need to figure out not just how to get the money for a new stadium, but where to build it.

The current lease of Tropicana Field runs through 2027, meaning the Rays need somewhere new to play by 2028. And while that seems far off, the realities of planning, designing, permitting, funding and ultimately constructing a new full-time stadium mean that a decision realistically needs to be made in the next 12-18 months.

St. Pete and Tampa each have reasons to want Rays in town

As St. Petersburg and new Mayor Ken Welch move forward with the re-development of the Tropicana Field site – read more about that here – the city has expressed its desire to keep the Rays in St. Pete. Current plans for the Tropicana site don’t include a stadium, but developers have touted an alternate version that would have space for a covered baseball stadium.

“We are working with our county partners and City Council to put together the best plan possible, which will work in conjunction with my planned evolution of the Tropicana Field master development proposals,” Welch said. “With this collaborative approach, 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.”

On the other side of the Bay, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, who had been a proponent of the sister-city plan, had been in talks with the Rays about building a new stadium in Ybor City. However, those discussions centered around an outdoor stadium that would only be needed half the season and wouldn’t require a roof since the Rays would be in Canada during Florida’s rainy season. A full-time stadium would be larger and significantly more expensive for all involved parties.

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In her reaction to the news, Castor only referred to her wish to keep the team in “Tampa Bay,” indicating it’s possible – perhaps even likely – that Tampa and St. Pete could end up presenting opposing options for the Rays to consider in a cross-bay battle for who gets to have (and help pay for) the new stadium.

“All along our goal has been to keep the Rays in Tampa Bay,” Castor said. “We had been working on both sister city and full season proposals, and now we can focus all of our energy on a full season. I am optimistic Rays Baseball will continue to call Tampa Bay home for many years to come.”

We will share more updates about the future of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Tropicana Field site as they become available.

What to read next:

Mayor Rick Kriseman selects Midtown for Tropicana Field Site re-development

What to eat and drink at Tropicana Field for Rays Games

Playoff preview: Bucs face Rams again in quest for repeat title

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