Rays allowed to explore plan to split season between St. Pete, Montreal

Major League Baseball has given the Tampa Bay Rays permission to explore splitting their seasons between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal, but St. Petersburg's mayor wasted no time shooting down the "silly" idea.

"For us in St. Petersburg, sharing the Rays with Montreal is simply not an option," Mayor Rick Kriseman insisted Thursday afternoon.

The hastily-called press conference in St. Pete came just hours after MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced the plan at the end of the owners' meetings.

According to ESPN's Jeff Passan, the Rays received permission from MLB's executive council to take a closer look at playing an unspecified number of early-season home games in Tampa Bay with the remainder of the season in Montreal. New stadiums would be built in both cities, according to his sources.

Montreal has been without a team since the Expos moved to Washington in 2005. The city of roughly 2-million people has often been mentioned as a possible destination for the attendance-challenged Rays.

This season, the team is averaging 14,546 fans per home game, ahead of only the Miami Marlins.

The Rays have been trying for years to build a new stadium to replace Tropicana Field, ideally closer to the area's population center across the bay in Hillsborough County. Though the team is tied via a lease to Tropicana Field through 2027, the city of St. Pete had given them permission to explore Tampa locations.

The most recent attempt involving a domed stadium in the Ybor City area fell apart late last year when deadlines passed without commitments to finance the $800-million plan.

Mayor Kriseman said Thursday that the Rays are contractually prohibited from talking to other locations without permission from the St. Pete City Council -- something, he said, would not happen.

"We all deserve better and should not take this too seriously," he continued. "This is the latest chapter in negotiations."

The Rays' only apparent reaction was a vague comment attributed to principal owner Stu Sternberg.

"My priority remains the same, I am committed to keeping baseball in Tampa Bay for generations to come," the tweet said. "I believe this concept is worthy of serious exploration."