St. Petersburg Mayor Shuts Down Rays' Split-Season Proposal
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman will "not allow" the Rays to "split their season between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal while the lease of Tropicana Field is in effect," according to a front-page piece by Solomon & Topkin of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. Kriseman said that both the city and club "will abide by the contract that locks the team" into Tropicana Field through the '27 season. Kriseman said that he wrote the memo "in response to pressure from City Council members for an update on the split-season negotiations." Now that negotiations are "off the table, the clock continues to tick" toward the end of the '27 season. That is the "last year through which the Rays are contractually obligated" to play all of their home games at Tropicana Field. When the contract ends, the team will be "freed from the now 30-year-old dome and become a free agent franchise." Rays Owner Stu Sternberg said that he "disagrees with the mayor that ending the Montreal talks is the best option." He "reiterated his faith in the split-season idea as the best way to keep baseball in Tampa Bay." Meanwhile, Kriseman also "reaffirmed St. Petersburg's commitment to contribute public dollars should the team wish to build" a full-time ballpark in the city. But he added that St. Petersburg "will not help pay to build" a ballpark for a part-time team (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 12/5).
SPLITTING THE DIFFERENCE? In Tampa, John Romano writes after cutting through all the "details and nuances" of Kriseman's announcement yesterday, two "important points were clarified." He not only "ensured the Rays will not be leaving for Montreal" before '28, but he also "increased the odds they might leave altogether" when '28 arrives. The Rays said that they will "continue pursuing the sister city plan with Montreal." But instead of "trying to make it work" by '24 or '25, they will now "turn their focus" to '28 when their use agreement at Tropicana Field expires. Meanwhile, "left unsaid" was Kriseman's "clear challenge that the Rays should shop themselves around to Portland, Nashville, Charlotte, Las Vegas and elsewhere if they think they can get a better deal than in St. Petersburg" in '28. The strategy is "risky" and it "might also be reckless" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 12/5).