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Rays President Acknowledges Tough Road Ahead For Split-Season Plan

Brian Auld at the podium
WUSF Public Media
Brian Auld speaks at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club

Auld said despite the obvious challenges of building two stadiums in two countries, it's a fight worth fighting.

Tampa Bay Rays President Brian Auld made his case for splitting the team's home season with Montreal during an appearance Thursday at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club in St. Petersburg.

Auld said despite the obvious challenges of building two stadiums in two countries, it's a fight worth fighting.

He responded to a question whether the team would pursue a Major League Soccer franchise for the Tampa Bay Rowdies to help fill a stadium that would he home for only 40 games a season.

"Nothing would make me happier than to have the MLS Rowdies and the Tampa Bay/Montreal All American/North American Snow Geese playing in the same stadium year-round," he said to laughter, "and I believe if we can accomplish that, you will have people who will look back on this moment and say thank goodness we were bold enough to try."

Auld acknowledged they've got a tough road ahead. But, it's worth trying.

"We've got to get Major League Baseball signed off, we've got to get Montreal, and we've got to get Tampa Bay. Each of them is in the beginning stages right now, but moving in the right direction," he said. "And I think as minds are opening, minds are changing, people are considering the economic realities of the two markets and what could be is becoming more and more exciting to more and more people."

Auld said the team is doing this to keep the Rays in Tampa Bay - at least half the year.

"One hundred percent of the reason we're doing this is to stay in Tampa Bay for generations to come," he said. "It's not a short-term solution. We'd have to have agreements in both markets for 30 years - that's the plan - no interest in going anywhere else."

The Rays are locked into a lease to keep them at Tropicana Field through the end of the 2027 season. Auld said any deals to provide a new home to the team have to be substantially completed by 2022 to be ready for the 2028 season.

Last week, Tampa's mayor and a Hillsborough County Commissioner said the countywants to be a part of the planto spit seasons between Florida and Montreal. 

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.