We will continue to explore the current most viable option for Montreal to obtain a Major League Baseball franchise with the possibility of the Tampa Bay Rays moving here.
As the Rays begin their stadium search in Tampa, they will be presented with many options. As we know here in Montreal, there will be hurdles abound. Locating a site is the easiest task that lies ahead. Then will come financing. Will the new stadium in Tampa by privately or publicly financed or a hybrid? In a previous post, I opined that it is unlikely that Floridians will foot the bill for another baseball stadium. I could be misinformed, but I have not seen much that would refute my opinion.
Let’s look at another key milestone. The Rays’ television contract will be up for renewal at the end of the 2016 season. The Rays will likely need a $100M+ yearly deal for broadcast rights if they have any chance of competing in the world of $100M+ team payrolls. In my mind, the stadium project needs solid traction before a broadcaster would consider upping the ante. At the same time, if stadium plans privately fall though and Sternberg is contemplating moving the team, he cannot negotiate in good faith for a new television deal.
Sternberg will be busy making sure that all the due diligence is done and all options to stay in Tampa are vigorously evaluated. He also has an excellent idea of what’s on the table in Montreal. There is an ownership group in place with their check books ready. Bell Media will likely pay at a premium for major live content. Stadium sites have been sought out and we have moved from feasibility study to a viable business case. All that remains in Montreal is to execute and make it happen. The people that are likely going to make this happen are slow playing it publicly, citing “patience”. Rest assured that lots is happening in the background.
2015 will be a pivotal year in both cities. In Tampa, new stadium plans should be well on their way by the end of the season. If things are not progressing well, there will be news by the end of the World Series saying that 2016 will be the Rays’ last year in Tampa. If there is positive news from the Rays’ fans standpoint, it will be made public by the All-Star break.
Look for strategic leaks from the Montreal Baseball Project and/or the would-be ownership in the Spring of 2015. Before Quebec’s National Assembly summer recess, also look for some sound bytes with respect to financing a new stadium. We should know during this time what the Couillard government’s appetite is to (at least partially) fund a baseball stadium in Montreal.
If the Rays do indeed get a new stadium in Tampa, we will wish them well. I will continue to watch the Rays with great interest on mlb.tv. In Montreal, we will move on to the next available viable option for the return of Major League Baseball.
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