Posted by: Tampa Bay Chamber on Friday, June 28, 2019

June 27th, 2019

At the June board meeting for the Chamber, Tampa Bay Rays owner, Stu Sternberg, and president, Brian Auld presented to the board members the new idea of having the Rays be in a sister city partnership with the city of Montreal in Quebec, Canada. The Rays would play spring training and part of the regular season in Tampa Bay and part of the regular season in Montreal. The sister city is the current idea to solve the growing concerns that the organization has faced over the past few years. The most pressing being the 2-year attempt to fund and build a new stadium in a different location that the current location for the team.

In the Rays extensive research on addressing these concerns, there really is no good path to just stay put in this area. The sister city idea allows for many of those concerns to be addressed, including generating a stronger revenue base. Stu and Brian truly believe that the idea of sister cities will change the future of professional sports and potentially that the Rays could be the pioneer team to lead it. The opportunity to play in Montreal also allows for something Tampa Bay baseball fans have longed for: an outdoor stadium. The building of a new stadium could potentially cost 1/3 less than the planned Ybor City stadium which is a significantly smaller hit to the community. In addition to the finance aspect, Stu and Brian believe this also allows for them to keep players for longer terms with potential salary increases by the tens of millions and increase the Rays' overall competitiveness as a team.

The Rays believe that the economic impact this sister city opportunity will provide is also a big factor in the decision. They believe that the opportunity to connect with a Canadian city in a situation like this will be an additional driver of tourism. Currently, there are seasonal direct flights between Tampa and Montreal, but with the sister city idea they are anticipating this service will increase. It also provides a way to build business and culture connections between our two cities. Stu and Brian opened the conversation to the board members and some of the questions addressed were regarding spring training, post-season, new stadiums, and why they chose to make the announcement mid-season.

Stu and Brian believe spring training will stay the same as what it currently is but post-season will likely take place in both cities. The new stadiums will likely be smaller than the current stadium and Stu explained the hope for that is to ensure that the fan experience is incredible, doing their best to eliminate lengthy wait times for restrooms and concessions. As for why they chose to announce mid-season, Stu and Brian said in early conversations about this with Mayor Kriseman it was decided that the announcement would be made by the end the summer and when they arrived at the decision they felt it was best to announce prior to the pennant race towards the end of summer.

Most importantly, Stu and Brian also assured that the Rays are 100% committed to staying in the Tampa Bay area, this sister city idea is not a staged exit but truly a way to keep the team here for the long run. They encouraged everyone to have an open mind and try to see the benefits that this setup will provide. They echoed that the Rays can certainly make this work for the Rays but it's up to the community to decide if it can work for the community. 

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