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Rays owner committed to making split-season Montreal deal happen

Posted at 10:57 AM, Jun 25, 2019

Tampa Bay Rays owner Stu Sternberg, along with team executives held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to address a potential plan to split home games with the city of Montreal in the future.

Sternberg did confirm the Rays want to go forward with this plan. He told our John Sabol he would like to have the Tampa Bay-Montreal deal done ideally by 2024.

The news broke last week when the team received permission from Major League Baseball's executive council to explore a plan in which they would play early-season home games in the Tampa Bay area and the remainder of the year in Montreal.

RELATED: Tampa Bay Rays to explore playing in Montreal

Under that plan, both the Tampa Bay area and Montreal would get new stadiums, with earlier games in Florida and later games in Montreal.

Sternberg claims this would be a permanent plan and not a staged exit. He says he rejected the idea of moving the team to Montreal years ago and rejects it today.

He also claims the idea is not taking a page out of a playbook to gain leverage. Sternberg says instead it is a generational commitment to both communities.

He went on to say he has no interest in selling the team. He also told us he doesn't know what would happen if this Montreal-Tampa Bay plan doesn't work out.

"As far as getting it done here, we never say never, but after all we've been through and what we've learned over the last few years, it's highly unlikely," Sternberg said of a new stadium deal only in Tampa.

"We are asking people to keep an open mind and join us on this exploration," he said.

One reporter asked what Sterberg thought about the fans in the Tampa Bay area who would want the team all to their own. "All to their own just isn't gonna be an option going forward," Sternberg replied.

“I don't see it happening in St. Petersburg and would be hard-pressed to see it working in Tampa as well given what I know," Sternberg said.

The Rays owner did say he would be committed to playing in St. Pete until the Tropicana Field lease ends at the end of the 2027 season.

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman was not a fan of the proposal, saying "sharing the team with Montreal is not an option."

“Ultimately such a decision is up to me. And I have no intention of bringing this idea to our city council to consider,” he added.

"I want to be crystal clear. The Rays cannot explore playing any major league baseball games in Montreal, or any anywhere else for that matter, prior to 2028 without reaching a formal memorandum of understanding with the city of St. Petersburg," Kriseman said.

On Thursday, Kriseman released a statement saying the City of St. Petersburg will not participate in the funding of a new stadium for a part-time team. Kriseman said in part, "If Mr. Sternberg wishes to formally explore this concept with me and his desire to privately and fully fund a new stadium in the City of St. Petersburg, I am willing to listen."

On Thursday, Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg released this statement:

"My priority remains the same, I am committed to keeping baseball in Tampa Bay for generations to come. I believe this concept is worthy of serious exploration."