The prospect of Major League Baseball returning to Montreal has gone from one out and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth to runners on first and second, but a rookie coming up to bat. If I bungled that baseball metaphor, it’s because I haven’t really watched that much baseball since the Montreal Expos left town in 2004.
Now, though, the prospect of them returning seems to have shifted into the realm of possibility, though it remains a longshot. Here’s where we are:
- Toronto Blue Jays pre-season games played in our Olympic Stadium continue to draw a crowd.
- A recent report commissioned by business leaders hoping to bring a team here produced positive results provided there was a new stadium close to downtown.
- Stephen Bronfman met with Quebec Premier François Legault to pitch the idea. Legault tweeted about the meeting and also told Bronfman that provincial investment in a new ballpark was possible if accompanied by private money.
- While clearly not as gung-ho as her predecessor, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante has said she is enthusiastic about the idea and was happy about the results of the report, but she also reiterated her campaign promise that she would put any investment of municipal funds in a new stadium up to a referendum.
- The Tampa Bay Rays are running into a bit of trouble and may leave a spot open in the American League East.
The last point may be the most significant. Montreal would need to be in the same division as the New York Yankees, Boston and Toronto to make it work.
Bronfman and company are pushing the idea that a local audience could support a team if they didn’t have to travel to the East End to catch games. That’s only half true, we would need the baseball tourists, too.
I can easily see Yankee, Red Sox and even Blue Jays fans regularly making the trek to Montreal to catch their team play ours, especially when the tickets are cheaper and easier to get. People from Atlanta, not so much.
Come to think of it, if the problem with the Expos the first time was really that we were in the National League and not the commute, why not use the Big O for a new team? Are you telling me that a Yankee fan who regularly travels to the Bronx to catch games would come to Montreal but balk at a trip on the Green Line?
OK, I know that’s not going to happen, MLB would never buy that argument. Just thought I would throw it out there. Moving on…
If We Build It, Will They Come?
Last time Montreal built a stadium, it was for the Olympics. We already had a pro baseball team at the time, and moving them into the new digs just made sense.
This time, we don’t have a team and have no other reason to build a new stadium but to host one. If we do decide to build, I seriously hope, at the very least, that it is with a team confirmed.
We don’t want a repeat of Quebec City building a new arena for the Nordiques and then not getting a team. If we do get a team and the new stadium isn’t ready, they can play in the Big O until it is.
So, let’s say that there is a team on its way and we are building a stadium in the Peel Basin, just across the canal from Griffintown, which seems to be the site of choice. The area isn’t residential, so we’re not looking at mass expropriations, which is good.
It is closer to downtown than the Olympic Stadium, but while the Big O is connected to Pie IX Metro, this is roughly a 20 minute walk from Bonaventure. There’s supposed to be an REM stop there, though, plus buses, you can bike to it, probably decent for driving, and if Plante gets the Pink Line off the ground, maybe a closer metro stop.
But what about when there’s no baseball game? Well, the Alouettes could use it in place of Percival Molson Stadium for regular season games, though they kinda have a good thing going there. The Impact could use it instead of Saputo Stadium, though that’s unlikely given how much money went into making them a permanent, soccer-specific home.
That leaves concerts and other non-regular events that require a large venue. Assuming we’re not going to try for another retractable roof, it would be either closed, in which case these events could happen year-round, or open-air, meaning they would be seasonal.
So, basically, the new baseball team would have to pack the place or at least come close for most of their season for a new stadium downtown to be feasible. They can’t rely on other organizations and events to make the enterprise worthwhile.
While Bronfman may have done a survey and produced a report, he obviously was hoping for certain results, and he got them. I’m sure his process was accurate, but why not get a second opinion from different people with (presumably) different questions and no desired result on our part.
With that in mind, here are seven quick questions and a spot to add your comments. You can also add your comments in the comments below.
We will publish the results when we have enough responses to get an accurate picture. It takes less than a minute, less than a Buzzfeed quiz. Have your say on everything but the team name, because we all know it should/will be the Montreal Expos:
Featured image by Eric Molina via WikiMedia Commons