Investors say central stadium key to baseball's return
The people trying to bring a Major League Baseball team to Montreal say the project would do best if a stadium was built downtown.
The group released a study this week indicating that bringing the Expos back is financially viable, but a stadium with about 32,000 seats in a central location with public transit access would be best.
A survey of the most devoted fans of the game showed that 80 per cent of them want to be able to walk, bicycle, or take public transit to games, and pay a ticket price that averaged $41 per game.
The Olympic Stadium, with its concrete outfield and aging infrastructure isn't ideal, said Matthew Ross of Expos Nation, a group supporting the return of Nos Amours.
“Oh, you can't play there. It's just not an option. It's a terrible facility, a bad location, something MLB would never look at with any serious consideration,” said Ross.
Tampa Bay's stadium troubles
The latest call for speculation is the trouble the Tampa Bay Rays have been going through in getting financing for a new stadium.
That team is locked into a lease at Tropicana Stadium until 2027, but they are allowed to move before then without paying a penalty of roughly $40 million if they move to another location near St. Petersburg.
This week the Rays announced talks to get public funding for a US$900 million stadium had collapsed when Ybor city officials demanded more clarity about the stadium and how it would benefit their city.
Earlier this year Mitch Garber, Steve Bronfman, and other baseball supporters in Montreal discussed the possibility of publicly funding a team or stadium with Mayor Valerie Plante.
On Friday Plante reiterated that, saying that consultations with citizens were an essential step before any city money would be spent.
Montreal mayor @Val_Plante says she’s encouraged by latest development regarding return of baseball. But insists there won’t be public $ without consultation with Montrealers.— Stéphane Giroux (@SGirouxCTV) December 14, 2018
Nostalgia for the Montreal Expos, which left the city in 2004, continues to be a driver of merchandise sales in local stores.
"Expos is ahead of any baseball team. You got Boston, the Yankees, but by far it's the Expos," said Sotiris Athanasiou, Logo Sports.
Investors 'firmly committed'
The Montreal study was done by Conventions, Sports & Leisure International. In addition to the interviews with executives and the focus groups, it conducted an online survey of 13,900 self-styled baseball fans.
The investors' group includes Couche-Tard founder Alain Bouchard, Mitch Garber, chairman of the board of Cirque du Soleil, Eric Boyko, CEO of Stingray Digital Group Inc., and Stephane Cretier, CEO of Garda World.
"While the process remains complex, the Montreal Group remains firmly committed to bringing back an MLB franchise to Montreal," the group said in a statement.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has said he would like to expand the league to 32 teams from the current 30, but first the situations in Tampa and Oakland need to be resolved.
Montreal strongest choice for expansion
The study also places Montreal as the strongest among cities considered potential expansion sites, with the largest population, TV market and corporate base and the second-largest median household income. It does not name the other cities, but in the past Charlotte, N.C., Portland, Ore., Las Vegas, San Antonio and Monterrey, Mexico have been identified as contenders.
Montreal would have the 15th largest metropolitan population among MLB cities, the 18th highest median household income and the 19th most corporations with annual sales of at least $5 million and 25 or more employees.
Interviews with 13 Montreal executives revealed that they would all purchase season's tickets and three-quarters of them would buy premium seating. About half would buy a luxury suite.
With the demise of the project for a new stadium in Tampa, a move is not out of the question for the Rays, who have ranked last or second-last in attendance every year since 2011.
"We don't really know what is happening in Tampa, but it clearly leads one to believe that things could move faster than we thought," Bronfman said. "That's good. But we are also ready for an expansion project. We are ready for anything."
- With files from The Canadian Press