The Tampa Bay Rays have 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, sources familiar with the situation told ESPN.
The Rays say it may be most feasible way to save baseball in the Tampa Bay area after years of failed attempts to build a new stadium in the region, sources said.
The plan would involve new stadiums in both the Tampa Bay area as well as Montreal, with the season being split between the two.
- St. Pete Mayor: Sharing the Rays with Montreal is not an option
- Power outage at Tropicana Field interrupts Tampa Bay Rays' game vs. Los Angeles Angels
Canada's only baseball team has been the Toronto Blue Jays ever since the Montreal Expos left town in the mid-2000s.
Sources say that under the plan, the Rays would play in new stadiums in both the Tampa Bay area and Montreal, with earlier games in Florida and later games in Montreal. The number of home games in each city has not been determined, the sources say.
An agreement has already been reached with a developer on a site in Montreal's Point-Saint-Charles neighborhood to potentially build a new stadium.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman shut down the idea, saying "sharing with 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,” Kriseman said Thursday evening.
Rays owner Stu Sternberg released a statement via Twitter:
The plan is still in very early stages and significant hurdles remain, ESPN said.
According to ESPN, the Expos played 22 home games in Puerto Rico in 2003, and Kansas City and Omaha split home games with the NBA's Kings in the 1970s -- but the viability of long-term success remains in question.
The Rays set a franchise low attendance record earlier this year and have been seeking a new stadium option.
ESPN reports that a deal with Montreal would keep the Rays in Florida while potentially adding significant revenues to the franchise.
It is too early in the process, sources said, to answer other questions, such as the name of the team or where playoff games would be held.