The social media driven move of Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays to Montreal picked up a little steam this week with a Montreal freelance journalist Pierre Trudel tweeting that Rays owner Stu Sternberg paid for a viability study of Montreal’s Griffin Town area to see whether the neighborhood was suitable for a baseball stadium.
Other than a few tweets, there was nothing to the story but the tweets did get the Rays organization to put out a response from the franchise’s president Brian Auld. “While there continues to be speculation surrounding the Rays future, we remain committed to keeping Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay for generations to come.”
There are a number of things to keep in mind here. Montreal is the largest untapped baseball market in Canada and had a team between 1969 and 2004. The reason Major League Baseball abandoned Montreal was the lack of a state of the art facility that would have replaced the vintage 1976 Olympic Stadium. There was no money available in Montreal or Quebec for two ownerships who wanted a new building starting around 1995.
There was also the cost of operating a team where the industry deals in American dollars and at one point during the Montreal Expos run in the late 1990s, the Canadian dollar plunged to 62 cents against the American greenback. The Canadian dollar is about 74 cents US. There is no secret that Rays’ ownership wants out of the St. Petersburg dome which was built over the objections of then Major League Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who in the late 1980s told local officials not to build it.
To make matters worse, when St. Petersburg got the franchise in 1995, Devil Rays’ ownership locked themselves into a 30 year lease with the city instead of the usual 20 years. The team’s lease has to be amended before there is any Rays franchise movement.
By Evan Weiner For The Politics Of Sports Business
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.