June 20 (UPI) -- The Rays received permission from Major League Baseball's executive council to explore the possibility of playing games in both Tampa Bay and Montreal, the league announced Thursday.
The Rays have surveyed a two-city plan as a solution to saving baseball in the Tampa Bay region after failed attempts to build a new stadium in the area, league sources told ESPN.
Under the proposal, the Rays would play early-season home games in Tampa Bay and the remainder of the season in Montreal. Both cities would construct new stadiums, according to ESPN. The number of home contests each city would be granted hasn't been determined.
The two-city plan faces multiple hurdles in its early stages. St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman told the Tampa Bay Times that he wouldn't let the team engage in talks about splitting a season in Montreal as the Rays have an agreement with the city until 2027.
"The Rays cannot explore playing any Major League Baseball games in Montreal or anywhere else for that matter prior to 2028, without reaching a formal memorandum of understanding with the City of St. Petersburg," Kriseman said in a statement. "Ultimately, such a decision is up to me. And I have no intention of bringing this latest idea to our city council to consider. In fact, I believe this is getting a bit silly."
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred referred to the concept of a two-city Rays team as a long-term project, according to ESPN. The ability to play games at the beginning of the regular season in Florida would remove the need for a domed stadium, cutting the cost of a new venue.
An MLB team hasn't played in Montreal since the city lost the Expos, who moved to Washington and became the Nationals before the 2005 campaign. The Expos were the last big-league team to split time between two host cities, playing 22 home games in Puerto Rico during the 2003 season.
The Rays' average attendance of 14,545 this season ranks last in the American League and 29th in the majors, according to ESPN. The team's opening day payroll of about $65 million was among the lowest in the MLB.