Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante had two words to describe her government’s commitment to bringing a Major League Baseball team back to the city on Friday: “We’re in.”

But that doesn’t mean the city will see a MLB squad take to the field for the first time since the Expos departed to Washington, D.C. in 2004 anytime soon.

Plante met with Mitch Garber and Stephen Bronfman, two of Montreal’s most prominent and wealthy businesspeople, at city hall. Afterwards, Garber warned Montrealers against getting their hopes up about a return of Nos Amours.

“Stephen made it clear to the mayor the baseball file is a slow moving file,” he said. “If there’s a team that can move to Montreal or a new team that could be established, we’ll figure out what the conditions are that can attract that team.”

Garber said he and Bronfman had not asked for any type of public funds or tax breaks, calling such talk “premature.”

When asked to specify her commitment to a new team, Plante said she hopes to cooperate with the business community if an opportunity presents itself.

 “It means we want to work together,” she said. “If there’s a possibility to have a team coming back to Montreal and it makes sense, we’re going to work together. How can we put our strength and networks together? What’s good for Montreal, this is where we’re in.”

Bronfman said there’s no timeline for any new team but praised Plante’s support as necessary.

“It means a lot,” he said. “If this is going to work, everyone has to be on the same page. The city plays a big role.”

Bronfman’s father, Charles, was the founding owner of the Montreal Expos. He sold the team to a consortium of new owners in 1990.

The meeting came a day after Plante posted a photograph to social media of her posing with a wide smile and sporting an Expos cap. While rumours have swirled for years about an imminent Expos return, much of that talk was sparked by Plante’s predecessor, Denis Coderre.


During his tenure in office, Coderre had portrayed himself as a major supporter of a return of Major League Baseball, holding events with former Expos stars like Tim Raines and being a regular presence at the now-annual Toronto Blue Jays exhibition games at the Olympic Stadium. Plante, by contrast, said during the campaign she would support a push for a new team but would not commit any public funds to the project without a referendum.

Plante said her stance still remains the same on the public funding issue, but said there are other options for the city's involvement to explore, including public transit or, aid in acquiring land for a new stadium or meeting with MLB officials. 

"For any type of team, if we need to build a new stadium and that implies using Montrealers' money, we need to ask them first," she said. "We've seen other places in North America and the world where it's been very expensive and it was difficult on the citizens' pocket. At this point, what we were talking about today, is there's other options."

Plante did not attend this year’s set of exhibition games.

Kevin Reichard, founder of Ballpark Digest, said he does see a reason for optimism for Montreal's baseball fans, but cautioned he believes it would take at least six years before the first pitch is thrown at any games.

"Major League Baseball is to the point where there are 28 teams with very solid venues in place," he said. "Oakland and Tampa Bay are working on theirs and once solutions are found in their two cities it's fairly inevitable Major League Baseball will be looking for new markets. A lot of people in baseball have very fond memories of the Expos and the unique way games were held in Montreal."

Toronto Star baseball columnist and former Expos publicity director Richard Griffin said the best hope for a new team in Montreal is expansion, explaining that while owners in Tampa Bay and Oakland have both threatened relocation in recent years, that's likely a tactic aimed at getting public funds to build new stadiums. 

"Once that's out of the way, I think that's the biggest impediment and at that point, when MLB announces expansion by two teams, Montreal's at the top of the list," he said. 

The Montreal Expos played their first game as a franchise on April 8, 1969 against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium. They moved to Washington, D.C. and were rebranded the Nationals following the 2004 season.

Prior to the Expos, Montreal had been home to the minor league Royals, who served as a farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The 1946 team included Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, who would go on to break MLB’s colour barrier as the first black player the next year.