As part of their ploy to get public financing for a new stadium when their lease at Tropicana Field expires, the Tampa Bay Rays have been flirting with the idea of packing up their bags and playing half of their home games in Montreal.
While it sounds ridiculous at first, the idea has reportedly been gaining some traction in some circles. Montreal has been without a team since the Expos moved to DC in 2004. While the Vladimir Guerrero-led squad didn’t do much to draw in many spectators at the time, there is a group with significant financial backing looking to bring baseball back to Quebec as soon as possible.
While expansion would be ideal, if they’re that desperate for some summer entertainment, maybe there’s some value to settle for 40 home games per year.
There are 3 key factors to take into consideration for the people making this decision.
As spectators, it may be easy to overlook the rigorous schedule our professional teams work under during the season. Sure, the multimillionaire athlete lifestyle may seem glamorous, but it’s easy to forget just how many working-class staffers are necessary to make teams function.
If this proposal gains real traction, it would mean equipment managers, administrators, traveling secretaries, and other team personnel would need to completely uproot their lives and find another home in a different country for half the year.
If not, then the team could split staff – some in Florida, and some in Canada – but even that seems like a massive hassle and cost. Plus, essential personnel like players and coaches are not so easily replaceable – how can you sell stars like Randy Arozarena and Wander Franco on this? The Players Association has to approve this plan, so one would think this wouldn’t pass that approval process so quickly.
Neither the Tampa Bay Rays nor the now-defunct Montreal Expos have ever been known for drawing sellout crowds to their home games. Is it realistic to expect better fan support if you don’t even have a real home team?
Some Rays fans would stick around, especially considering how successful the team has been in recent years, and there is likely to be some hype surrounding the team’s start in Montreal, but will that be enough to maintain a fanbase? Can you get diehard fans to support a team splitting their allegiances like this?
It’s hard to imagine. Maybe I’m wrong, though. There may already be some Rays fans getting their passports renewed, planning their trip to Montreal, and deciding which of the newly legal New York sportsbooks to bet on the Tampa Bay/Montreal Rays/Expos during their layovers. But that’s a big maybe.
This talk all started with discussions of a new stadium. The Rays’ time at the Trop has been inglorious at best, as it’s never been considered one of the league’s nicest places to play or watch a game. It seems clear the team has no plan to renew their lease before it expires in 2027, and it’s hard to blame them.
This proposal comes in an attempt to extricate themselves from St. Pete and make the move to downtown Tampa in a new stadium properly.
However, it’s not all roses up north either. The Montreal group is attempting to get a new baseball stadium of their own built, as the Expos’ vacated home – Olympic Stadium – is unlikely to be appealing to a team looking to escape a dilapidated old dome.
In essence, the Rays are attempting to get 2 stadiums built. Seems like a tall task. It’s more likely that a new stadium gets built in Montreal, given the fact that Quebec is open to some public financing if they can get an MLB team back in the city.
At the end of the day, this all boils down to money. Once they are done with their lease, the Rays are free to do whatever they please, and whatever option will please them the most will have the biggest price tag.
My prediction – it’s just too difficult to pull off. Even if the MLBPA gives the green light, I can’t imagine how much of a pain it would be logistically or financially. If Quebec is actually willing to shell over taxpayer money for a new stadium, I, unfortunately, believe that it is more likely that the Rays move to Montreal full time rather than move forward with this proposed timeshare.