Split venues: Tampa Bay Rays will explore playing home games in Montreal

Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays received permission to explore a plan that would see the attendance-starved baseball franchise play home games in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Montreal, commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday.

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The Rays were given permission Thursday by Major League Baseball's executive council, and a plan to split home games between St. Petersburg, Florida, and Canada could be implemented around 2023, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Team officials said playing in two different cities would be the best solution to saving baseball in the Tampa Bay area, ESPN reported.

The Rays' current lease at Tropicana Field runs through 2027, the Times reported.

"My priority remains the same, I am committed to keeping baseball in Tampa Bay for generations to come,'' Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg told the newspaper Thursday. "I believe this concept is worthy of serious exploration.''

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said Thursday he would not grant permission for the Rays to explore other options, citing the team's lease with the city of St. Petersburg.

"I don't see that happening, and I've expressed that to them previously," Kriseman told the Times.

Manfred told the newspaper that the Rays "still are interested in having a new facility (across Tampa Bay) in Tampa."

"The limits of the current facility in terms of the atmosphere and the location are pretty well known." Manfred said.

Major league baseball has not been played in Montreal since the Expos relocated to Washington D.C., in 2005 to become the Nationals.

Two cities sharing a major-league franchise is not new. The Expos played 22 home games in Puerto Rico, during the 2003 season, and the Brooklyn Dodgers played seven home games in Jersey City, New Jersey, during the 1957 season.

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