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Volume 26 No. 207
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Rays Have Two-Year Window To Lock Down Split-Season Plan

The Rays have "less than two years to determine where they are going to be playing baseball" by Opening Day '28, according to Margie Manning of STPETECATALYST.com. Rays President Brian Auld on Thursday said that January '22 would be the latest the team could "wait to figure out what it will do if its Sister City concept" of splitting home games between Tampa and Montreal "doesn't work out." St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said that he "wants to hold the Rays to a provision in the use agreement" for Tropicana Field that "bars the team from negotiating to play elsewhere until after" the '22 season. Meanwhile, Auld on Thursday made an "enthusiastic pitch for the Sister City concept, saying it was the only way to keep the team in the Tampa Bay area." Manning noted building a new open-air ballpark in the Tampa Bay area, where the Rays would "play the first half of the season before moving to Montreal," would knock $300M off of construction costs. Auld said that a new facility "could be open year-round," and used by Rays-owned USL club Tampa Bay Rowdies or to host events (STPETECATALYST.com, 2/21).

STARTING TO COME AROUND: In Tampa, John Romano notes the Rays are "methodically pushing the idea that the split season plan is likely an all-or-nothing proposition." Though the team is "selling what once seemed like a wildly unpopular idea," a crowd at the luncheon Auld was speaking at Thursday "seemed receptive to Auld's campaign pitch." It feels like the "rhetoric gets turned up just a little bit each time you hear it," almost as if the Rays are "slowly cementing the idea that if the Montreal plan doesn't work, there may not be" MLB in Tampa Bay in '28. Romano: "Give the Rays credit. ... They have refined their pitch." The Rays have MLB's "backing, they have the mayor of Tampa interested and they may eventually be able to woo" the MLBPA (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/21).