ST. PETERSBURG -- After he and his executive spent several minutes at the opening of a news conference talking about the ways they've supported the Tampa Bay community over the years, Tampa Bay Rays owner Stu Sternberg said it was time to face reality.
"We (the Tampa Bay area) are simply not well-suited for a major league baseball team that needs to draw tens of thousands of people for 81 games to its ballpark," Sternberg said.
The Rays owner says that the Tampa Bay area's geography, lack of a single central business district, and economy of small businesses and few large corporations mean the team can't generate enough attendance. "To force that to happen here, when the conditions are not right, could be more than damaging... to baseball and to a community," Sternberg said.
Sternberg insists his proposal to split the baseball season with Montreal, Canada is "a permanent arrangement, a generational commitment" meaning both regions would have baseball for future generations.
During questioning by reporters, it was clear that many of the details haven't been worked out, including rainouts and where playoff games would be held.
Answering one reporter's question, Sternberg said a refurbished Al Lang Stadium, on the St. Petersburg bayfront, could potentially serve as the Rays' home for the Florida half of the season.
The Rays are tied to a lease at Tropicana Field through the 2027 season. St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman called the Rays' Montreal proposal "a bit silly." He was not on hand for the team's news conference, which took place in a surreal atmosphere... the museum dedicated to 20th-century surrealist artist Salvador Dali.
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