The Rays asked people to just hear them out on their shared-team plan, but there are some serious questions after they elaborated on it.

Sorting out the Rays' 'cockamamie' Tampa Bay-Montreal 'sister-city' plan


Rays owner Stuart Sternberg elaborated on his “sister-city” idea Tuesday in St. Petersburg, appropriately at the city's Dali Museum because it's a bit surreal that he thinks the plan — the Rays splitting their 81-game schedule between new, open-air stadiums in Tampa Bay and Montreal, possibly as soon as 2024 — has a shot.

He himself called the idea "cockamamie," but …

“We are asking for people to keep an open mind and join us on this exploration,” Sternberg said from the Dali Museum atrium with the glistening waters of Tampa Bay behind him.

“We certainly don’t have all the answers …(but) today begins a conversation, an exploration and a collaboration.”

Here are five takeaways from Sternberg's 45-minute press conference, via FloridaPolitics.com's Noah Pransky:

1. Sternberg appeared to admit to violating the Rays' contract with St. Petersburg.

He said the topic of sharing games with Montreal came up between him and Montreal booster Stephen Bronfman "a couple of years ago." The Rays' contract with St. Petersburg requires that the Rays have expressed permission from the city to have any sort of discussions about playing home games away from Tropicana Field before 2027. Ahem, the city says its attorneys have been or will be in contact with the team's.

2. It's not crystal clear what the Rays want from Tampa Bay.

Sternberg asked for the region to simply have an open-mind: “Even though (the two-city plan) seems like a long-shot concept and a cockamamie idea … we really feel great about it and believe it can be done.” Translation, courtesy FloridaPolitics.com: "Read between the lines, and Sternberg clearly was asking for support for the taxpayer subsidies to make it happen … as well as an enormous request from St. Petersburg: permission to talk to Montreal about playing games there before 2027."

3. Pinellas County is the preferred destination.

Though Sternberg wouldn't voice a preference, Pinellas County, which includes St. Pete and Clearwater, is a preferred destination because its bed tax revenues are strong — and available. In comparison to the tax revenue generated by Pinellas' beaches, Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa (and its previously failed Ybor City site for a Rays ballpark), already is paying for three stadiums and its tax coffers are largely tapped out.

4. The Rays may be serious about making Tampa Bay work — at Al Lang Field.

Sternberg was relatively fuzzy on a lot of the two-city logistics, but he was very clear on one thing: He thinks the Rays could play the first half of their season in Florida in an open-air stadium on the St. Pete waterfront. And, as FloridaPolitics.com points out, "Sternberg wouldn’t necessarily need voter approval to get major stadium construction done this time. He purchased the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer club, who received voter approval in 2017 to assume long-term control of Al Lang Stadium."

5. There's some voodoo economics involved.

Sternberg suggested that new Canadian tourists coming to the area to see their "home team" play early in the regular season would, in part, help offset Tampa Bay losing 41 home games (while also paying for a new stadium). There are two flaws to that economic argument: First, why would Montreal fans travel to Florida to see the Rays, especially in, say, June's heat and humidity, when they could just wait for the team's second-half arrival in Quebec? Second, even if they would travel South, St. Pete would need tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Canadians to visit to make the math work. Bottom line, per FloridaPolitics.com: "Could a sister-city arrangement create new economic opportunities for Tampa Bay? Absolutely. Enough to pay for a new stadium? Of course not."



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