MLB's executive counsel has rejected the Rays’ plan to split seasons between Tampa and Montreal, a set-up the league gave preliminary approval for the organization to explore more than two years ago.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred informed Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg of the ruling on Tuesday, with the decision stunning team officials, per the Tampa Bay Times. Rays executives were reportedly expecting approval to proceed with efforts to get open-air stadiums built in both markets.
With the split-season plan no longer an option, the organization’s future in Tampa looks more uncertain as the team’s lease agreement at Tropicana Field expires after the 2027 season.
“There is virtue in pursuing something you believe in, and I am proud of our efforts. I am determined that these years of pursuit and ingenuity will lead to something positive for our organization,” Sternberg told reporters Thursday. “Our goal is and always has been for the Rays to thrive here in Tampa Bay today and in future generations.”
Team officials told the Times they have no immediate plans to ask permission from the league to explore relocation to another market. Sternberg has no plans to sell the team, per the Times.
The Rays, who frequently are at the bottom of MLB attendance totals, have been attempting to secure a new ballpark in the Tampa area for nearly 15 years.
Montreal, which had an MLB team for almost four decades starting in 1969, has not had a MLB team since 2004, when the Expos relocated to Washington, D.C. and became the Washington Nationals.
Mayor Jane Castor took to Twitter following news of MLB's decision.
“All along our goal has been to keep the Rays in Tampa Bay,” Castor tweeted. “We had been working on both sister city and full season proposals, and now we can focus all of our energy on a full season. I am optimistic @RaysBaseball will call Tampa Bay home for many years to come.”