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With The Rays Staying In Tampa Bay, Nashville And Montreal Have The Inside Track At Getting Expansion Teams

Mike Ehrmann. Getty Images.

The Rays will be playing baseball in Tampa Bay and not in this ugly hellhole. The bad news? It looks like they will still play in a dome.

SOURCE -  The Rays are expected to make a major announcement Tuesday regarding completion of a deal to build a new stadium in downtown St. Petersburg.

The stadium would be built near the current Tropicana Field site as part of the redevelopment of the 86-acre Historic Gas Plant District and open for the 2028 season.

Based on preliminary information shared in January, the stadium is expected to have a fixed dome roof and artificial turf field, seat around 30,000 and cost in excess of $1.2 billion, with contributions from the team, St. Petersburg and Pinellas County.

This is obviously great news for baseball fans in the Tampa Bay area. The Rays aren't moving. Other than that, this seems pretty shitty to me. They are staying in St. Pete which makes it difficult from fans in Tampa (and points east) to have to cross the always congested Howard Frankland Bridge to get to the ballpark. 

The other thing that I hate about this is that they are going from one dome to another. Why aren't they putting a retractable roof in the new park? Yes, the humidity in the summer is brutal there but there is great weather in Florida in April, May and September. The last thing you want to do on those days is go inside to watch baseball.

Mike Carlson. Getty Images.

SOURCE - He also said the team expected to “pay for half or more” of the stadium project, and that the Rays were talking to investors to contribute to the $600 million or more cost in exchange for shares in the team.

This should be very concerning to Rays fans. Stu Sternberg needs financial help to even build the fucking stadium. Just sell the team already Stu. Let someone own it who can afford to match this amazing analytics department with actual financial resources. So much of this feels like the same song and dance for the Rays. Still in a dome. Still have a brokeass owner.

The Rays lease ends at Tropicana Field after the 2027 season so the new dome will theoretically have to built by then. Of course, I'm sure they can work out an agreement that they can stay an extra year if construction is delayed. But that at least gives a timetable for when fans can expect to have the new park ready.

Rich Pilling. Getty Images.

Now let's talk about the real exciting news that is impacted by today's Rays stadium announcement. With the A's going to Las Vegas and the Rays staying put, the stars are finally aligned for expansion baseball to take shape. This year's winter meetings are in Nashville. I would not be shocked at all for MLB to announce plans to expand to 32 teams this December. 

Now, this is a process that then needs time to take shape. They usually have a committee take a look at roughly a dozen potential cities and they take several months to whittle the field down to two teams. I believe there are two cities specifically that have a major leg up on the others. Montreal and Nashville have huge advantages over other cities like Portland, San Antonio or Charlotte.

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Obviously the Expos were there from 1969-2004 but with the differences in the media landscape since then, Montreal has become a much more important city for MLB to be in. They have a location (Olympic Stadium) that they can play in immediately while a new stadium is being built. MLB has even played a number of spring training games there to sellout crowds. They were obviously doing that to test the city to see if baseball is viable. Montreal has passed every test since 2004.

Why did the Expos fail the first time around? They needed a new stadium which would be mandatory to them getting a team this time. They will also need ownership that can financially support the team and not have to trade players like Pedro Martinez and not lose players like Larry Walker and Vladimir Guerrero to free agency.

Sean Pavone. Getty Images.

Nashville is the other city that I think gets a team. They have minority ownership led by former pitching great Dave Stewart. They also have spent the past couple of years building up local support from businesses and fans to give the organization a huge leg up the second the city is granted a team. They even have a team name picked out: The Nashville Stars.

I am happy for Rays fan who live in the Tampa Bay area. But I'd be lying if I wasn't more excited that the Nashville Stars and Montreal Expos would be playing in that new stadium by 2027.