Could Montreal be the new Rays home?

 

Montreal could very well be a prime candidate to return to the big leagues and while things are very much in the early stages this is something to watch if you are fans of the Tampa Bay Rays or the Oakland A’s. Unlike the silly conversations about cities like Nashville, Charlotte, Portland and Las Vegas, Montreal is a true force to be feared.

Many forget that for three decades in the 1970′s, 80′s and 90′s that Montreal was a force and had one of the best farm systems in baseball. Gary Carter, Pedro Martinez and Andre Dawson are but a few players who wore the Expos tri color caps.

Montreal got a bad wrap as a baseball town and truth be told that after the 1994 baseball strike the momentum to build a new downtown ball park fell off as both the political and the business communities were going through a transition. Compound the political and business issues with a series of bad owners and by the early 2000′s  Major League Baseball took the team over and moving it to Washington in 2005.

But like Tampa Bay part of the problem was not that Montreal was a bad baseball area it was because they were playing in a bad facility no where near their fan base. Stop me if you heard this before, they played baseball in a dome (Olympic Stadium), that was the butt of jokes around the league for its poor layout and less than fan friendly location. Baseball fans in Montreal never really gave up on the game it was Major League Baseball that gave up on the city.

According to the Toronto Sun Newspaper:  The return of pro baseball to Montreal is a “viable project,” provided $1.25 billion is drummed up to make it happen, says a new study.  The study commissioned by The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal released the study last week at a news conference.

The board of trade estimated it would cost $525 million to bring a Major League Baseball franchise to Montreal, plus $500 million to build a stadium in the downtown core. There are a number of businessmen who are interested in brining baseball back to the city.

Everything at this point really hinges on an owner, someone who is willing to buy a franchise that is having issues.

But a far more likely move would be for the city to put forth an attractive downtown domed 40,000 seat downtown stadium with a team friendly lease. Then a big dollar broadcast contract from a national network like a TSN (ESPN Canada), Rogers (like Comcast) and of course the French language network RDS, could be worth well over $50 plus million dollars a year.

That would be a package that the city could, over time put together and if you are an owner of a major league baseball team that is not drawing and is not getting a good TV deal then Montreal is going to be attractive.

There is some momentum build and it starts of all places in Toronto. The Blue Jays would love to have a team back in Montreal, they will be playing some spring training games there this year.  The Jays

Pedro Martinez was just one of the many stars who played in Montreal.

Pedro Martinez was just one of the many stars who played in Montreal.

President Paul Beeston said last month that he’d “love to see baseball back in Montreal” and player agent Scott Boras said last week in Orlando at the Winter Meetings that the Rays should be the team to move there.

Montreal’s return to the big leagues has many hurdles to overcome but the Bay Area would be wise to come up with a viable plan for the Rays long term. Because if Montreal does get their act together there will likely be a new commissioner of baseball by then and the draw of one of the most beautiful and most vibrant cities in North America would be hard to resist.

 

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