'This is absolutely happening': Expos fans weigh in on pro baseball's return to Montreal
The investment group behind the bid to bring a major-league baseball team back to Montreal is reaching out to fans to find out what will bring them out to games.
Focus groups, being held in Montreal for the second day Wednesday, are asking fans what they want in a future stadium, how much they are willing to pay for tickets, and what food should be offered. More than 1,400 people registered to take part.
Baseball fans have been hopeful for years about a return of a big-league team, but Major League Baseball has given no indication when or if it will approve a team in Montreal. Instead, Commissioner Rob Manfred has said he is concentrating on turning around the fate of struggling franchises in Tampa Bay and Oakland before looking at expansion.
That isn’t dissuading fans like Perry Giannias.
“There is no cart before the horse. This is absolutely happening,” he told CTV Montreal. “It’s just a question of when. Major League Baseball (has) repeatedly said they need to fix up the situation in Tampa Bay and they need to fix up the situation in Oakland before they talk expansion. Now, if we can get Tampa Bay, hey, that would be awesome. And if not, then I guess we can get an expansion team. But one of the two is going to happen for sure.”
The Montreal investment group is led by multi-millionaire businessmen Stephen Bronfman and Mitch Garber, who have assured city officials that they will not be looking for public money to build a new stadium or land a team.
CTV News heard from fans taking part in the focus groups who said the stadium needs to be downtown and offer an experience affordable for families. Many said they expect a team within five to 10 years.
The investment group says it plans to present the results of its fan outreach to the league.
Matthew Ross of TSN 990 and founder of Expos Nation, says the investors are targeting everyone from the diehard fan who would buy seasons tickets to the casual fan who would take in a few games here and there.
The investment group has been very clear they will not build a stadium and then hope to get MLB’s approval. They will only build a stadium once a franchise is awarded. That could mean a new team might have to play at Olympic Stadium for a year, says Ross.
He says the provincial taxes generated on a team’s payroll – the league median is about USD$130 million – could be a yearly payment on a stadium.
The Expos played in the National League East from 1969 to 2004, when the team, hampered by low attendance and a poor venue, became the Washington Nationals.
With a report from CTV Montreal’s Amanda Kline