The Tampa Bay Rays have struggled to draw fans to 24 year old Tropicana Field, despite the fact that the franchise won 90 games (or more) a year from 2008-2013. In fact, attendance and revenue have been so low that Rays’ owner Stuart Sternberg has discussed moving the franchise to Montreal, Quebec with Wall Street investors.
Sternberg has reportedly been frustrated by the lack of movement on getting a new stadium built-in the St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay area, and the lack of support from the local population. The owner is also worried that the area wouldn’t financially be able to support the franchise, even if a new stadium were to be built. This has led to Sternberg discussing a relocation of the franchise to Monreal with potential Wall Street investors.
And according to sources, Sternberg has had discussions with wealthy Wall Street associates about moving the Rays to Montreal, which has been without a major-league franchise since the Expos were transferred to Washington in 2005. As one major-league official put it to me Friday: “Say what you will about Montreal, but the Expos drew well over two million fans four times there in their heyday, while the Rays did that only once, their first year.” –Bill Madden, NY Daily News
Montreal has expressed interest in bringing back the Expos, and building a ballpark. The City commissioned a study to see if a new stadium (and the return of MLB) would be financially feasible. This study found that any baseball team would need a new $355 million in government financing, with the rest of the estimated $500 million construction cost coming from private investors (the purchase price was estimated at $525 million, all paid for by the investors). It also found that 69% of Quebecers want a MLB team.
Tampa Bay’s first season in the MLB was 1998, and it was also the only season that the Rays have drawn over two million fans to Tropicana Field. While the on field product struggled, attendance remained low and was always at the bottom of the league. Unfortunately for the franchise, these attendance woes continued following the Rays first playoff run — and trip to the World Series — in 2008.
Tropicana Field opened in 1990 in an attempt to bring one of the (at the time) struggling MLB franchises to Florida. The stadium was originally known as the Thunderdome and was the home of the NHL Tampa Bay Lightning. Once the Lightning moved out of the dome in 1993, the stadium was left without a tenant until the Devil Rays were born.
The Rays went 77-85 in 2014, with the smallest pay roll and lowest attendance in the American League. General manager Andrew Friedman was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and manager Joe Maddon opted out of his contract with the franchise. It seems that the Rays have maxed out their ability to win in Tampa Bay.