Imagine for a moment the Chicago White Sox announced they will play half of their home games in Indianapolis. Or the Chicago Cubs deciding to move half of their games out of Wrigley Field and into Des Moines. Would that be something that fans of those teams would be in favor of?
I doubt they would go for it. However, Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg believes that type of situation not only will exist in the future but teams across professional sports will eventually embrace it.
Last week, major league owners rejected a proposal from the Rays to split their home schedule between Florida and Montreal. The plan had been discussed for several years yet has been put to rest for now.
The Rays have been one of the league’s worst teams in average attendance over the years, despite having gone to the World Series twice since the team came into being back in 1998. Last season, the team averaged around 9,500 fans a game which ranked just ahead of Miami and Oakland.
The Chicago White Sox have been involved in a “relocation threat” before.
Sternburg knows that type of attendance figure cannot lead to financial sustainability and he should be applauded for coming up with some outside-the-box thinking in terms of developing another revenue stream. The idea of picking up midseason and heading off to another city-in this case to another country-to complete the year seems a little too far-fetched.
While Sternburg was looking at this plan to help his team right now, he believes the concept will not only become accepted but commonplace in sport:
"“I have no doubt that what we tried to accomplish with our sister-city plan will become accepted in all of professional sports,” he said. “Major League Baseball simply isn’t prepared to cross that threshold right now.”"
Baseball should never prepare itself to cross that threshold. Scheduling and traveling problems, player housing issues, and loss of work for stadium employees are just a few of the reasons this idea is just plain bad.
The fact Sternburg suggests this will become popular across professional sports seems outlandish. If sister-city markets desire a professional sports team, wouldn’t a league look to expand into those cities instead of placing a team in them on a part-time basis?
If the desire to get a franchise is so great in an untapped market, pro sports leagues would probably be more than happy to explore putting teams in them. The Tampa/St. Petersburg area has never fully supported the Rays in terms of attendance and Tropicana Field is considered one of the worst-if not the worst-stadium in all of baseball.
The Rays agreement to play at Tropicana runs out in 2027 and negotiations to build a new stadium in the area have not been fruitful. Sternburg says he is not looking into selling the team and relocating is not an option for now. The upcoming season’s attendance totals could play a role in the future of the team in Florida.
The White Sox are no strangers to potential relocation efforts. St. Petersburg could have been the home of the White Sox had a deal for a new stadium in Chicago not gotten done back in 1998. In 1975, the Sox were on the move to Seattle but that didn’t happen once Bill Veeck bought the team.