The dream of seeing the Expos — or another Major League Baseball team — back in Montreal could be a reality, according to a study released today, but it would take more than a billion dollars from government and private investors.
The feasibility study — produced by the Montreal Baseball Project in collaboration with Ernst & Young and the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal — concluded the new team would require about $355 million in government funding, with the rest coming from a private investor.
"We are looking for a power hitter, a hitter who can clear the bases," said former Expos Warren Cromartie, who the founded the Montreal Baseball Project in 2012.
The $400,000 feasibility study was a follow-up to a survey of 1,589 Quebecers, which found that 69 per cent wanted Major League Baseball back in the city. Of 392 business owners surveyed, 81 per cent said they supported the project.
"The numbers do not lie. We are now closer to a return of baseball in Montreal than we have been in a decade," said Cromartie.
The study estimates that the government would recover its investment in eight years and would return more than $1 billion over the following 22 years, mostly from sales tax as well as income tax paid by players.
Michel Lablanc, the CEO and President of the Montreal Board of Trade, said he believes the financial and political climate has significantly changed since the Expos left Montreal nine years ago.
“I have the impression that even in the political realm this project is seen as a very mobilizing project for Montrealers and Quebecers," Leblanc said.
New team, new stadium
The study concludes that bringing Major League Baseball back to Montreal would require the construction of a new stadium, no farther than two kilometres from downtown, with a capacity of 36,000 seats.
Of the $1.025 billion investment, $500 million would go toward the construction of this new stadium, as the Baseball Project says the Olympic Stadium is not in an ideal location to attract fans.
The remaining $525 million dollars would go towards buying a team, which the Baseball Project says would be purchased from an existing franchise rather than creating one from scratch.
The committee also says it is important that the team be a member of the American League — as opposed to the Expo's previous National League — because it would allow competition with nearby rivals including the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays.
The Montreal Expos moved to Washington D.C. in 2004 and changed their name to the Nationals.