Rays declare January 2022 deadline for Tampontreal deal, or else they’ll do “something”

This one snuck in while I was writing Friday’s news roundup: Tampa Bay Rays president Brian Auld declared Thursday that while team execs remain focused on the bonkers plan of playing home games in new stadiums in both Tampa Bay and Montreal, if they can’t work that out by January of 2022, then “we need to figure something [else] out.”

What’s so magic about January of 2022, when the team can’t relocate for even part of a season until 2028, unless given special permission by the city of St. Petersburg? Time for a trip to Chapter 4 of Field of Schemes, “The Art of the Steal”:

Step 5: The Two-Minute Warning

No matter how well you’ve played your cards to this point, there’s always the danger that the proceedings may threaten to drag on indefinitely as pesky voters demand referenda or legislative leaders hit gridlock on deciding on a funding plan. At this point you may want to declare a crisis: Proclaim that the window of opportunity on a new stadium will remain open only for so long, leaving unstated what disaster will befall the city if the window should be allowed to slam shut. [Frank] Rashid [of the Tiger Stadium Fan Club] calls it the “used car salesman” approach: Buy now because this offer won’t be good for long.

The two-minute warning is especially risible in the case of the Rays, because Tampa Bay and Montreal appear to be their only two good options for playing in. I suppose Rays owner Stuart Sternberg could announce in early 2022 that he’s now conducting a nationwide search for a new home for 2028, in the hopes that Portland or Charlotte or someplace can get interested in starting a bidding war if Tampa Bay and Montreal aren’t interested. Or, if only one of Tampa/St. Pete and Montreal seems likely to cough up stadium funds, he can use his preannounced deadline as an excuse to say, Sorry, we thought the two-city thing would work out, but we’ll take the stadium in the hand over two in the bush, thanks — which makes more sense as a strategy anyway than the two-city thing.

If there’s a lesson here, it’s not to believe anything that sports team owners say when talking about moving teams, or setting deadlines, or really anything when money is on the line, because as we should all remember by now, a savvy negotiator creates leverage. The Field of Schemes section on the two-minute warning (and the followup section in Chapter 13, “The Art of the Steal Revisited”) includes stories of Houston Astros execs setting deadlines in 1995 for a move to Virginia, then continually extending them through 1996 until Houston agreed to provide stadium funding; the Florida Marlins owners setting final deadlines year after year after which they would move the team out of state, each year returning hat in hand until they finally got what they wanted out of Miami; and a Dallas Cowboys spokesperson admitting that the team had set a deadline for stadium funding partly “to create a sense of urgency.” If there’s ever an “Art of the Steal Re-Revisited,” I’ll be holding space open for the story of the Rays.


33 comments on “Rays declare January 2022 deadline for Tampontreal deal, or else they’ll do “something”

  1. I read some where basin peel in Montreal has a limited time before the Quebec government decides to do with it

    • Partially right.

      The land (Wellington Basin in Goose Village) is owned by Lands Canada and in order to sell 2.3km2 land, Canada Lands is following the public consultation process (OPCM) in order to determine what should be done with such lands. OPCM is a neutral organization that consult the population and issue recommendations.

      The city of Montreal have a first right of refusal on the lands and can purchase it if they feel that they want to develop them the way they want.

      The OPCM is about to disclose their consultations report (due in January/February 2020).

      From there, we’ll know if the recommendations are to sell it to Devimco (which is partnering with Claridge & the MTL Group) to develop a huge project of 6K to 10K condos, affordable apartments, commercial spaces, school, parks, a REM station and a stadium.

      Yes, the land will be sell probably this and massive investments are required to decontaminate the land, build infrastructure, build a REM station, … It can’t wait years, the REM will be ready in 2022 for that segment and the station must be built before the go live.

      QC government is not involved directly in the process, it’s between the city, the Canada Lands Company and CDPQ Infras which is charge of the REM project ($6.5B for Phase 1).

      If a REM station is built next to the land, a special real estate tax is applicable to all real estate development to fund the REM. So this is where the QC government could be involved specifically for the land. But the law is already in place, some amendments may be required.

      Regarding the decontamination process, QC government would probably be involved to some extend. Goose Village is a very old industrial site from the 1800’s.

      • I also heard it has neighborhood opposition which is why I think why having a limited number of games may mitigate the concerns of the neighborhood. Remember the laney college proposal went down in flames because of that

        • Number of games have nothing to do with opposition or to mitigate the critics. This neighborhood always had a poor population next to the industrial companies and because of the proximity to downtown MTL, they want affordable apartments/home, schools, sport complex, …

          The reality is that this is premium lands next to the REM and CDPQ Infras MUST optimize the number of people that will use the electric train in order to get a reasonable ROI.

          Several reasons explain why MTL Group is supporting less games.

          1. A full season means a more expensive stadium with potentially a roof. That’s ~$200M right off the bat!

          2. Less games means less tickets inventory so a higher price tag per ticket.

          3. Over the last 10 years in MTL, Spring season is colder and longer and Fall season is warmer until mid-end of October. So having games just starting mid-end of May make a huge difference on attendance.

          Don’t be surprised if the Sister City concept evolve/end-up with a mid-May to October season in Montreal if the demand is stringer for tickets.

          • “1. A full season means a more expensive stadium with potentially a roof. That’s ~$200M right off the bat!”

            It also means having to build two stadiums (one each in Tampa and Montreal) instead of one, which will add a lot more cost than they’ll save by not building a roof.

          • My understanding is they’ll build a minor league caliber stadium in Tampa, and a real stadium in Montreal.

            Even if the cost is a tad higher than a single domed stadium in Tampa would be, you get access to a second TV market.

          • Correct but sternberg wants public funds for something the community really won’t have ownership of. There was already opposition to funds this last go round. It will be exponentially worse with this proposal

          • For me to believe this proposal is serious both cities would name to build 2 multipurpose stadium costing about what a MLS would cost. If any tax payer money is to be used they would have to time share the team names between the montreal expos and Tampa bay Ray’s. Otherwise this seems like an attempt by the Ray’s to embarrass the region to get the team out of the lease early

  2. This is a “Limited Time Offer Only! So Act Fast Now!”

    Hmmm. I’ve heard this before. Somewhere? Maybe a timer, countdown, maybe added to FoS right hand corner banner.

  3. I think the key is Nashville. It’s an attractive city and the locals seem to be OK with stadium deals.

    Plus, if geographical realignment happens (which certainly appears to be in the cards), you’ve got a tailor made rivalry with the Braves.

    • Nashville is growing quickly. However, not sure a CMA of just over 2m can support the NFL, NHL and MLB.

      Of the cities/CMA in that neighbourhood (Portland, Sacramento, Pittsburgh, LV, Cincinnati, Austin, KC, Columbus, Cleveland, Indianapolis, San Jose, Virginia Beach-Norfolk, Providence Warwick etc) only Pittsburgh has franchises in all three. Cleveland has 3 major sports teams as well (NBA not NHL, of course).

      As Pittsburgh and Cleveland are both marginal MLB markets (as are a couple in that list with franchises in only two major sports leagues) it is hard to see how Nashville – despite it’s recent growth – could support an MLB franchise.

  4. Tampontreal could never work. If you live in Tampa, why would you support a team that will be leaving for Montreal by the summer and not being able to watch and be part of the pennant chase late in the season? If you are in Montreal and the assumption based on the news is it will be an open air stadium, why would you support a team that if it makes the post season, It would be played in Florida due to the weather. If not it would be another strike for Florida fans since there would never see a post season game.
    The genius part of the Rays plan getting two cities who may be dumb enough to help fund two ballparks for only 40 or 41 home games each.
    Florida is proving they cannot or will not support an MLB team. Look at the Miami and Tampa attendance, both are at the bottom even in years when they played well, (look at the Rays).
    If you want to keep a team in Florida, Orlando has been growing fast with many transplant north easterners who may love to go to a game. From Orlando, you could draw from Tampa in the west and Daytona and the space coast from the east as well as Central Florida. I believe NJ, (Even though the Mets and Yankees will never let it happen), could draw better than anywhere in Florida but if it must be Florida, Orlando to me is the logical choice. The two city approach has to be an idol threat or baseball believes fans only care about baseball as a social event and not people going for the love of the team or sport anymore.

    • Agreed Phil. The likelihood of a split home franchise is quite low. However, the further Sternberg can push this the better it is for BOTH he and MLB.

      Let’s say this shakes loose more money for a stadium from Tampa or St. Pete. Win for Sternberg and MLB.

      Let’s say it doesn’t shake loose more money from TSP but does get the groundwork for a new stadium in Montreal done. Win, because MLB now has a ‘franchise ready’ market that can pay for the Rays. Or, if Sternberg wants to stay in TSP, can host an expansion team.

      And once built, if that stadium is deemed “a good start but not MLB ready” whoever built it will have no choice but to keep pouring money into it until MLB says yes.

      If this plan shakes loose no new stadium money from either location, Sternberg still wins… he is that much closer to the opt out and his team becoming fully portable. And he has all this free advertising about how ‘available’ the Rays are.

      The only downside is that he may make the owners club look a little dumb for approving this idiotic plan, and if he eventually doesn’t shake any new stadium cash loose they will look at him as having not “got it done” as so many others have.

      That’s a risk worth taking for him I’m sure.

    • I think if taxpayers keep caving in to stadium demands, then billionaires will start asking for 2 stadiums instead of 1. And of course once one gets them, the flood gates will be open for the others in order to compete. However, I think it is more likely the 2 stadiums will be the same region (an urban stadium and a suburban one, or 2 cites like St. Pete and Orlando that are near each other). Why contain the Florida Rays to just one city if the tax payers will pay for two?

      • The two city thing, Orlando and St Pete, may not be such a crazy idea since we are in the land of crazy with the two city approach. They are both close enough to each other to make it easier to maintain a fan base. Though this would never happen because cities will fall over themselves to buy land and building two completely new places instead of better utilizing what they have already. You can take existing facilities and maybe do something with them. There is already the old Atlanta Spring Training facility near Disney that could be made major league ready. With the theme parks, people would have other entertainment options accessible to do afterwards that is already in place. No ballpark village necessary. In the St Pete/Tampa/Clearwater area, take one the spring training facilities and work a deal with the team that uses them and make one of them MLB ready. Some teams share spring training facilities. The Mets and Yanks shared Shea in the early 70s, teams let other use their ball parks in times of emergencies. In football Giants/Jets have been sharing a stadium for years. In hockey, the Islanders go between the Barclay Center and the Nassau Coliseum. There is precedence. May not be the logical thing to do, but we are ready already on the island of dumb so why not do something that makes sense.

        • Sure. And Orlando and T-SP does make more sense geographically… though even with it’s recent growth Orlando-Kissimmee has about 600k less population than Tampa St. Petersburg does.

          You probably remember the years the Packers split home games between Lambeau and County stadium in Milwaukee. It can be done.

          But what gain is there in splitting locally? Is the suggestion that no fans will travel from Orlando to watch a game in Tampa? It’s not that far… and in any case it’s the same distance in both directions, so there is no reason to believe that any greater percentage of Tampa based fans will travel to Orlando than currently go the other way. It’s likely a wash whichever city they are located or primarily located in.

          I agree with the basic point though… it makes more sense to split between adjacent communities than it does between cities hundreds or thousands of miles apart.

          If the Rays become a regional team, I would suggest they don’t need a new stadium in Tampa. Legends (ok, the former Legends…) will work fine. They can add 4-5k temp seats if need be… but I honestly don’t think they will necessarily need them. 11k creates artificial scarcity.

          Add to that, Legends is just a much nicer place to watch a game from (in person or on TV).

          The only outstanding question on this is whether Sternberg wants to be in Orlando and can he get someone to build him a free stadium (that may host less than a full 81 home games) there for 2028?

          • As always, these would be verrrrry different conversations if public subsidies were off the table. Sternberg is angling for two things at once — the best site, and the most money coming out of someone’s pocket other than his own — and it’s the latter that’s probably going to hold more sway.

          • Pat Williams wants to bring MLB baseball to Orlando. The gain would be you can keep most of the current base, add Orlando and gain additional fans from areas east of the city, (Daytona, Sanford, the Space Coast, Southern Brevard, Volutia, and so on).
            The two ballpark approach makes sense in another universe, but if can get two cites to throw cash away for a billionaire and build his two parks then you can do that Orlando and Tampa plan.
            I think the old spring training facility at DIsney can be enhanced, add seats to make it about 25,000, add upgrades for the so called fan experience and you can have an MLB facility. The Rays ownership is looking to build a small park anyway so it may not be a reach to do that at the Braves old spring training site.
            Cut a deal with the Phils in Clearwater, add a few seats to bring that to 20,000-25,000, make it to so called MLB standards for players, some upgrades and you have a pretty decent ball park.
            In reality, to keep Tampa from leaving Florida and do the normal one ballpark approach, Orlando may make the most sense since it is truly Central Florida and there is someone who is actively trying to get Orlando a team in the future. . There is already a turn key entertainment district with the theme parks and the hotels already exist and the area is expanding exponentially.
            As a side note, as a Mets fan, ask any real fan of the team and they will say how much they loved the atmosphere at Shea Stadium and they do miss the place. The fans today are not really into the game as the fans of the not to distant pass. They are more interested in social areas, fancy food, ballpark clubs, and just to be seen. This is why we have to put nets around the whole ballpark. and the size of each park seems to be shrinking. This generation is not interested in the game itself.as much as the previous. Shea Stadium in today’s dollars would be less than $250,000,000 and you know what, It was an enjoyable place for a real fan, not the politicians, team owners, or media who kept calling the place a dump, but real fans loved the place.
            If you shrink Shea down to half of it’s 55,000 seats, add social and modern updates, you could still probably get it done for less than a 1/2 billion, then there would be no excuse for a team to try and fleece a city to build it for them.

      • Thank you, John. Waiting for someone to bring up this point.

        Watching comments to build a baseball stadium in Tampa.

        Tampa already has a baseball stadium. 11,026 seat George M. Steinbrenner Field.

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_M._Steinbrenner_Field

        • Pleased to “help”.
          I’ve always thought of Legends as the obvious solution (even part time).

          Didn’t the Rays play some regular season games there a few years back? I seem to recall that they did…

          Florida “afternoon rains” notwithstanding, baseball is always better outdoors. And IIRC, the rains are really quite ‘dependable’ for most of the year… IE: you can set your watch by them in some parts of the state. And thus schedule around them.

      • Next point.

        Clearwater, Florida. Population, 107,685. Clearwater Threshers. Season attendance, 180,192 (200,201 in 2017). APG 2,698 (2,988 in 2017). Spectrum Field. Capacity, 7,000. Since moving to Spectrum Field in 2004, Thresher attendance has remained steady for 11 straight years.

        Why has MiLB Thresher attendance remained steady, while MLB Rays attendance continues to drop, regardless of their seasonal record?

        What experience do the Threshers provide that results in fans returning year after year, regardless of their seasonal record, that the Rays do not?

        Point 2.

        If MLB, Stuart Sternberg and the Tampa Bay Rays so concerned about attendance (Hint: We all know they are not), why does MLB allow 3 Florida State League Single A teams to play in TSP metropolitan area at the same time of year as the Rays?

        Clearwater Threshers. Dunedin Blue Jays. Tampa Tarpons. These 3 teams together have an average seasonal attendance of 300,000 – 350,000 yearly.

        Has anyone given thought that these 3 MiLB teams maybe siphoning off attendance from the MLB Rays?

        That again takes us back to the question above. What experience do the 3 MiLB provide that results in fans returning year after year, regardless of their seasonal record, that the Rays do not?

      • John.

        Lived in Galveston, Texas and Cancun, Mexico during the summer (As a native born Californian, weather did not work for me, specifically the humidity).

        Every day you could watch thunderstorms build up over the ocean, Caribbean, then roll in during the afternoon. You could, in fact, set your watch to them.

        If TSP is the same …..

  5. My favourite extortion play is still the Yankees… I mean, they watched other teams extract ever larger subsidies from smaller cities because ‘they gotta compete wit da Yankees’… and then go and get the largest subsidy of them all in the biggest media market in the nation.

    That would be like paying welfare to billionaires but doing so on a pro rated scale because basic welfare (like poor people receive) would mean nothing to a billionaire.

    Hey, wait a minute…

  6. I seriously can’t read anything past the word “Tampontreal.” I want this ordeal to keep going as long as possible just so I can see that word in print as many times as possible. I’m giggling like a middle-schooler in sex ed class.

  7. I would guess that 2022 is around the time that MLB reads the tea leaves, takes inventory, and decides whether stay at 30 teams or expand to 32. If they stay at 30 then the heat is turned up big time in Oakland and Tampa. If both teams have their stadium issues resolved and they still find merit in expansion then they will expand.

    • In January 2022 MLB is probably going to be in the middle of a work stoppage, so extremely unlikely they’ll be talking expansion right then.

      • If Oakland get its stadium, they will either expand in the next year or so or wait another decade

  8. OMG! I just looked up Stuart Sternberg, Wall Street Investor, net worth. $800 million. He’s not even one of the US 585 billionaires. Stuart actually has to check the price tag before he buys.

    Well this just changes the equation entirely. Poor Stu cannot afford to build a new ballpark. St. Pete or Tampa, or both of you, suck it up. Your residents must pay for a new stadium for Stu (Hint: Use terms like PILOT or TIF, the taxpayers will never figure it out, much less know the diff). Montreal, get busy on that new ballpark for Stu. If Stu wants to split the season between two nations, the least you can do accommodate him, Stu’s practically down and out.

    Now enough of this FoS chatter. We need to setup a Stuart Sternberg “Go Fund Me” immediately. I cannot fathom how difficult life must be living on only $800 million. Being only one of the nations 36,202 one hundred-million millionaires is truly heartbreaking.

  9. On 2/22/2020 I sent the following email to Brian Auld – president of the TB Rays:
    =====================================================
    Hi Brian,

    I found John Romano’s column titled “Tell me, have the Rays changed your mind about this Montreal deal?” posted at https://www.tampabay.com/sports/rays/2020/02/21/tell-me-have-the-rays-changed-your-mind-about-this-montreal-deal/ .to be an interesting read.

    Hopefully you will find the column titled “Manfred, Sternberg Need to Think Outside Batter’s Box” posted at https://tampabaybeat.info/manfred-sternberg-need-to-think-outside-batters-box/ an interesting read as well.

    Thanks for listening.
    =====================================================
    The idea embedded in the referenced column is simple – play more games where the attendance and revenue per fan is the highest (e.g. New York and Boston(. Play less games where the reverse is true (e.g. Tampa Bay). No new stadiums are required and there is no need to split schedules drastically among two towns of two different countries. And, the Rays could immediately catapult to the middle of the pack in gate receipts and simultaneously add more revenue to MLB’s ever growing pie.

  10. The references to your book remind me how good it was to read a few years back… Too bad all those tricks still fool cities and states. :(

    Any FoS reader will find the book to be immensely informative, insightful, and well written. Definitely worth a read.

    Thank you Neil, keep up the great work!