- 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|
*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.
— SportsPaper (@SportsPaperInfo) April 15, 2018
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.
MFQOD: The group of business people that want to bring Major League Baseball back to Montreal have decided on the location of the new stadium. It’s the Peel Basin. What are your thoughts of this location? 514-790-1690 #TSN690 pic.twitter.com/CQJz40UWtC
— Tony Marinaro (@TonyMarinaro) February 13, 2019
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.
the Videotron Centre cost $400m to build.The city just leased it to a company for $33m for 25 years.
— birky (@b1rky) April 7, 2015
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.
Top 10 Most Valuable MLB Franchises, according to @forbes are: Yankees ($4B), Dodgers ($3B), Cubs ($2.9B), Giants ($2.85B), Red Sox ($2.8B), Mets ($2.1B), Cardinals ($1.9B), Angels ($1.8B), Phillies ($1.7B) & Nationals ($1.675B).
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) April 11, 2018
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.
Thinking about the reported proposal that has the Tampa Bay Rays splitting time with Montreal. Unworkable in every way, it seems to me – but I failed to mention that the Rays have an airtight lease where they are. They're not going to get halfway out of it.
— Jack Todd (@jacktodd46) February 24, 2019
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.
The Athletic MLB players poll.
Q. Which city would you like to see an expansion team? pic.twitter.com/9pgMPRSYCf
— Jones on Lockdown (@deuceohsixx) March 27, 2019
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)