Regular season big league baseball could be returning to Montreal once again.
Major League Baseball’s executive council approved the Tamps Bay Rays’ request to explore the possibility of splitting regular season games in Florida and Montreal, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Thursday after the owners’ meetings.
Though the plan is still in its infancy, the Rays would play in new stadiums in each city, with the later games being played in Quebec. The exact number of home games in each city is still to be determined.
The Rays have struggled to generate revenue and have finished 15th out of 15 teams in the American League in attendance in six of the past seven seasons. The team has been trying for years to land a deal for a new stadium, but efforts have fallen short.
Montreal hasn’t seen regular season baseball since the Expos left for Washington, D.C. before the 2005 season. The Toronto Blue Jays have played a pair of preseason games in Montreal every year since 2014.
Speculation has grown in recent months of the possibility of the return of MLB baseball in Montreal after private-equity magnate Stephen Bronfman expressed an interest in bringing a team back. Bronfman’s father Charles is the original owner of the Expos.
Bronfman indicated a month ago that he and another businessman reached an agreement to buy a piece of property in Montreal capable of supporting a new stadium.
The fan base in Montreal, which has drawn 469,932 fans to 11 Blue Jays preseason games since 2014, appears ready for a team to return. A recent survey from Forum Research indicated 59 per cent of Quebecers would support a team in the province, though just 42 per cent of respondents said they would go to a game.
Meanwhile, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said he doesn’t intend on permanently moving the team away from western Florida.
"My priority remains the same, I am committed to keeping baseball in Tampa Bay for generations to come," he said in a statement. "I believe this concept is worthy of serious exploration."
With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and CTV Montreal