The storyline of the Tampa Bay Rays moving to Montreal was always far-fetched, yet it has continuously been repeated. People love to chastise the Rays for their lack of attendance, and Montreal has apparently emerged as that city in baseball that deserves a team more than a few cities that actually have one. The same is true for Seattle in the NBA, but we can take a lesson from that situation and apply it to Montreal’s: there are billionaire owners ready to pay an exorbitant sum to turn some NBA team into the new Seattle SuperSonics, yet no one wants to move.
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I hope most of you have read The Extra 2% by Jonah Keri, and if not, it’s a worthwhile read. In any event, Keri discusses at the beginning of the book how Tampa Bay was used as leverage by several franchises against their cities in order to secure new stadiums. That is the actual pre-history of the Tampa Bay Rays, and it’s ironic that after Tampa Bay missed getting a franchise on all those occasions that people think a franchise is just going to pick up and move to Montreal within a few years. In any event, the Montreal conversation can be tabled because the Rays are not leaving Tampa Bay.
New St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman agreed with the Rays on a deal that would allow them to finally look at any stadium site they wished in either Hillsborough or Pinellas County. The deal allows the Rays to only look in those counties–goodbye, Montreal and any other destination.
The Rays have until December 31, 2017 to find the site that they like the most, and while they will have to compensate St. Petersburg based on the years they will not play in the Trop, the sums they would need to pay look more than reasonable. That is a major win for the Rays, and while we can debate whether Kriseman did the right thing for St. Petersburg, the agreement significantly increases the probability that the Rays will remain in Tampa Bay. Did the Montreal rumors pressure Kriseman to make the deal? Maybe it did a little bit, but we have known for years that if the Rays didn’t get their stadium issue resolved soon, they would have to look into alternate locales outside the area.
The Rays still have to find the right site and figure out how they will pay for a new stadium, but this is a critical first step and everything could flow more smoothly from here. Instead of feeling angst about the Rays’ future in the area, Rays fans can be excited for the nicer stadium the Rays will eventually be playing in and the lesser traffic they will need to go through to get there.
Residents of whichever county the stadium ends up in will probably have their tax bills increase–not everything is good here. However, keeping the Tampa Bay Rays in Tampa Bay was the area’s top priority, and now they have done everything in their power to achieve that. After years and years of questions, the coming years will finally start giving us some answers in regards to the location of the Rays’ new stadium. We already have the first answer: they will be remaining in Tampa Bay.