By Recker McDowell —
The Tampa Bay Rays are considering splitting games between St. Petersburg, where the team has struggled with attendance and to get a new ballpark, and Montreal which is looking to bring back Major League Baseball after the Expos left for Washington D.C.
There is plenty of skepticism to making the Tampa Bay / Montreal ‘X-Rays’ work. But the idea has been floated before.
Back during the Phoenix Coyotes ownership saga (and before the team became the Arizona Coyotes) one idea floated in 2009 was to play a few home games Saskatoon.
The concept was a bit the same with the Rays splitting time between Florida and Montreal. Two home fan bases can help bolster attendance.
The Rays have the second lowest home attendance in the MLB (averaging the 15,602 fans per game) despite being one of the best small market teams.
The Coyotes averaged almost 14,000 fans per home game last NHL season at Gila River Arena in Glendale. That was up from previous years. Still, the Yotes had the third lowest home attendance in the National Hockey League.
The Coyotes are also on their third owner in recent years with Alex Meruelo buying a majority stake in the team from Andrew Barroway who bought out the Ice Edge group that once floated the Saskatoon idea.
Meruelo owns casinos in Las Vegas and Reno as well as a television station and radio stations in Los Angeles.
The Coyotes are looking to make the playoffs next season. It would be the first time since 2012 when the NHL owned the team.
But the Coyotes systemic challenges remain. Their Glendale arena home is still a challenge for fans in the East Valley and Scottsdale. The ownership churn and uncertain future in Arizona has chilled sponsorship deals at times.
The Coyotes made it clear they wanted to share a new downtown Phoenix arena with the Suns. The Suns and city of Phoenix are instead renovating Talking Stick Resort Arena.
The positive spin will be that Meruelo will bring his business savvy and his deep real estate and gaming pockets to an up and coming Coyotes team.
The back spin of course will arise to whether Meruelo will look at keeping the Coyotes in Arizona or moving the team with Houston and Rockets Owner Tilman Fertitta interested in snagging an NHL team.
There will likely be talk of the Coyotes long-term future at Gila River Arena with the arena approaching its 16th birthday and in soon need of improvements. There will be talk of a potential arena somewhere else in the Valley.
There could be chatter on possible moves to Houston, Quebec City, Portland or Kansas City.
And yes, don’t rule out someone again floating the idea of the Coyotes (like the Rays) splitting time between two homes.
Just don’t count on that duo being Glendale and Saskatoon. But who knows in the speculative age of Twitter maybe the trial balloon of games in Saskatoon or even Kansas City or Anchorage might float again.