MONTREAL — A potential return of Major League Baseball to Montreal is on hold until at least 2028 after the mayor of St. Petersburg, Fla., said negotiations to split the Tampa Bay Rays' home dates have ended.
Mayor Rick Kriseman wrote in a memo to city council that "both parties have agreed that the best path forward is to abide by the existing use agreement."
"In accordance with the existing use agreement, should the Rays organization wish to continue exploration of the shared season concept with Montreal, that exploration must be limited to the 2028 season and beyond," Kriseman said.
The Rays and a Montreal group headed by Stephen Bronfman have been in discussions about a shared season, with the team playing half of its 81 home games in each location. Rays owner Stu Sternberg said in June an ideal scenario would see new open-air stadiums in both locations ready for use in the 2024 season.
The Rays have played at Tropicana Field since their inception in 1998 and had the second-lowest attendance in Major League Baseball this year, despite making the playoffs.
Montreal has been without a big-league team since the Expos left after the 2004 season for Washington and became the Nationals.
Kriseman also said in the memo that team officials declined his offer to renew a memorandum of understanding that had allowed the Rays to explore stadium locations throughout the Tampa Bay region.
"I continue to believe that the Rays organization will come to determine that the Tampa Bay area, and specifically St. Pete, remains the best place to play baseball 81 days a year and to succeed in the long-term," Kriseman said.
Kriseman said the city would consider funding for a new stadium only for a full-time team in St. Petersburg.
Sternberg released a statement later Wednesday in response to Kriseman's memo.
"We agree generally with Mayor Kriseman's characterization of our months of conversations, though we would like to clarify two points," Sternberg said. "First, we do not agree that this is the best path forward. Second, we asked for the opportunity to explore this concept with both St. Petersburg and Montreal, and with Tampa and Montreal.
"We recognize that we must now consider our post-2027 options and all that entails, and we remain steadfast in our belief that the Sister City concept is deserving of serious consideration."
Bronfman released a statement later Wednesday, saying he remains "steadfastly committed to the sister city concept with the Tampa Bay Rays and its realization in as timely a fashion as possible."
"Our group continues to be excited by the proposed innovative concept. We will have no further comment at this time."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2019.