Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says she’s thrilled with progress made by a group seeking to bring Major League Baseball back to Montreal, but remains cautious about committing public money to the project without first consulting the population.
A group of investors seeking baseball’s return released a market study on Thursday concluding the project would be viable and would generate strong interest among fans and the city’s business community.
Plante told reporters on Friday she’s glad the project is making progress, commending the energy put in by a group led by Stephen Bronfman, executive chairman of Claridge Inc., and Montreal lawyer and businessman Mitch Garber.
The mayor said the city will be involved, but just how remains to be determined.
“We need to evaluate what kind of participation, how we will collaborate, but so far, so good,” Plante said. “We all agree it would be a great opportunity for Montreal to get back baseball, now we just have to go back at the details, but I’m very enthusiastic.”
Plante said she will stand by her 2017 election promise to consult the public before approving funding for a new stadium, should Bronfman’s group make the request.
“The needs are important in so many other areas, and what we’re seeing elsewhere is there are different business models being developed to get sports teams,” Plante said. “But if it comes to asking Montrealers for money, for example to build a stadium, yes, I will ask Montrealers.”
The investors group said a downtown location with public transit access would be essential to a team’s success. Executives surveyed preferred a ballpark with 35,000 seats or less and said “it should have a social atmosphere, a design that fits the local architectural style and be a year-round destination,” the group said.
The Montreal study was done by Conventions, Sports & Leisure International. In addition to interviews with executives and focus groups, an online survey of 13,900 people was conducted.
The results were published the same week the Tampa Bay Rays indicated their project for a new downtown stadium has been abandoned because of a lack of financing and political support. 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.
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.
The Montreal investors group also includes Couche-Tard founder Alain Bouchard, Eric Boyko, chief executive of Stingray Digital Group Inc., and Stéphane Crétier, chief executive of Garda World.
Chantal Rouleau, the minister responsible for Montreal in François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Quebec government, remained non-committal about any provincial involvement in the project.
On Thursday, a photo of Bronfman meeting with Legault in Montreal was shared on Legault’s Twitter account.
“Baseball is back in the news, and of course we are very attentive to what’s going on,” Rouleau said on Friday. “We will have the appropriate discussions in due course.”