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Odds Say MLB Won’t Return to Montreal by 2023

Montreal Expos Olympic Stadium 2003
Declining attendance at Olympic Stadium was one of many factors that led to the Montreal Expos' departure for Washington in 2004. Photo by wyliepoon (Flickr) CC License]
  • Shaky ownership, stadium issues, and poor attendance led to the Montreal Expos’ departure for Washington in 2004
  • Talk of baseball’s return to Montreal rekindled with the Toronto Blue Jays’ annual spring visit
  • Opposition to a taxpayer-funded stadium, stiff competition from US cities remain obstacles to baseball’s return

The Toronto Blue Jays’ annual spring visit to Montreal has once again raised hopes that Major League Baseball may soon return to Canada’s second-largest city.

A groundswell of support for baseball exists among hardcore fans in the city, and a prospective ownership group is actively pursuing plans to build a ballpark just minutes from downtown Montreal.

However, with the bitter memory of the Montreal Expos’ departure for Washington, DC still fresh in the minds of city residents, politicians, business people, and baseball industry insiders, an imminent revival of Major League Baseball in La Belle Province remains a longshot.

Odds Major League Baseball Returns to Montreal by 2023

Will Major League Baseball Return To Montreal By 2023? Odds at Bovada
Yes +700
No -1400

*Odds current as March 31

Ownership issues, rapidly falling attendance, the lack of a television deal, and poor performance on the field combined to seal the fate of the Montreal Expos, who were reborn as the Washington Nationals after relocating to the nation’s capital at the conclusion of the 2004 MLB season.

And while the Blue Jays’ annual spring training stop has proven popular with local fans, many of the same issues that faced the Expos 15 years ago still exist today.

Build It and They Will Come…Maybe

As anyone who has watched a game there knows, Montreal’s Olympic Stadium falls abysmally short of the minimum standard for an MLB ballpark.

Built for the 1976 Olympic Games at an outrageous cost of $1.1 billion to taxpayers, the “Big Owe” continues to be plagued by issues relating to its non-functional retractable roof that has added an additional $500 million in costs to maintain over the past four decades.

A prospective ownership group led by Stephen Bronfman, son of original Expos co-founder Charles Bronfman, recently proposed the construction of a new ballpark on land near the city’s historic Old Port that would likely require taxpayer investment to get built.

But with Quebec taxpayers still feeling the sting of the province’s Olympic boondoggle, public funding for a new ballpark in Montreal is likely a non-starter.

Further complicating the stadium issue is the NHL’s decision to not return to Quebec City, despite the recent construction of shiny new Centre Videotron at a cost to taxpayers of almost $400 million.

As Quebec City’s recent experience with the NHL illustrates, a groundswell of fan support means little in the quest to attract a major league franchise.

No fan outcry for hockey in the desert existed in Las Vegas. Instead, it was the emergence of a deep-pocketed owner with a love for hockey and a commitment to the city that made the difference in the arrival of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in 2017.

Bringing Baseball to Montreal a Multi-Billion Dollar Proposition

While Bronfman is among Montreal’s most prominent businessmen, it remains to be seen whether his ownership group has the financial muscle required to take on the daunting multi-billion dollar project of securing a franchise, building a stadium without government assistance, and shouldering the nine-figure annual payroll required to field a competitive team.

Stiff Competition from US Cities with Deep Baseball Roots

Of course, the other big question mark concerns whether the MLB would return to Montreal via expansion or relocation.

The Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A’s have long been considered the two most likely MLB franchises to relocate. However, with the Rays recently committing to staying in Tampa until at least 2027, and the A’s actively pursuing a new stadium in the Bay Area, the return of baseball would likely come via expansion.

But Montreal will face considerable competition from cities across North America when MLB makes a move on expansion for the first time in two decades.

In addition to Las Vegas, which has enjoyed massive success with the Golden Knights, and will soon welcome the NFL’s Oakland Raiders to town, several US cities with deep baseball roots like Portland, Charlotte, and Nashville are likely to be in a favorable position to bid for an MLB club.

With so many obstacles to clear, Montreal fans awaiting baseball’s return will likely have to bide their time. That time might be best spent wagering on the MLB not returning to their city by 2023, which will pay out on short -1400 odds.

Pick: No (-1400)

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