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.
Half of the hefty price tag would be for a new downtown stadium, the stumbling block that helped usher the Montreal Expos out of town in 2004.
The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal released the study Thursday at a news conference that included popular former Expos outfielder Warren Cromartie.
“Montreal, we have a history of baseball in this town, and number two, we have the numbers and the numbers don’t lie,” said the 60-year-old Cromartie, who heads up a group aimed at bringing a team back to the city.
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.
The study cited potentially high demand for season tickets as well as healthy income prospects due to revenue sharing.
“The numbers are higher than what we had anticipated,” said board of trade president and CEO Michel Leblanc.
The Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays have both been rebuffed in their efforts to secure publicly-funded stadiums, stoking some Montrealers’ hopes for relocation.
Those hopes were amplified following the announcement that the Toronto Blue Jays will play two pre-season games next March against the New York Mets at Olympic Stadium.
Blue Jays President Paul Beeston said last month that he’d “love to see baseball back in Montreal” and player agent Scott Boras said Wednesday that the Rays should be the team to move there.
MLB commissioner Bud Selig has tried to downplay Montrealers’ expectations, saying last month that “we don’t have any clubs moving and we certainly don’t have any expansion plans.”
But the buzz shows no signs of abating.
Mayor Denis Coderre said Thursday that he’s ready to lend his voice to the effort.
“The mayor of Montreal will get involved,” said Coderre. “I think it’s important for me to play a role in this sense to eventually bring back a major league team.”
Cromartie, whose group is called the Montreal Baseball Project, said nothing will get off the ground without an owner.
“My next step is to find myself a champion,” he said. “A champion with passion. A champion with integrity. A champion with assets.”