'Controversial' Montreal baseball stadium project needs more study, report says

The Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM) said it would be “irresponsible” to make a ruling on the project based on the information it has collected, which it described as fragmented.

Montreal's public consultation office wants the stadium to be the subject of a separate public consultation

Major League Baseball has said that Montreal would need a new stadium if baseball were to return to the city. A new report doesn't give the idea the green light, but doesn't veto it either. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Montreal's public consultation office won't say whether it believes a baseball stadium should be built near the Peel Basin.

The Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM) said it would be "irresponsible" to make a ruling on the project based on the information it has collected, which it described as fragmented.

Instead, in a report made public Monday, the OCPM is recommending the project be the subject of its own, separate public consultation, calling it "one of the most controversial" of all the project proposals.

Last fall, dozens of groups, individuals and business-types shared their thoughts with the OCPM during the public consultation about the future of Bridge-Bonaventure, a 2.3-square-kilometre area that stretches from the Bonaventure Expressway to the Champlain Bridge, south of the Lachine Canal.

Montreal businessman Stephen Bronfman, one of the presenters, wants to build a Major League Baseball stadium on a piece of federally owned land just south of the Peel Basin.

Bronfman and several partnering business leaders from the area have formed the Montreal Baseball Group to achieve this goal. 

During the public consultations, Bronfman presented his group's vision, saying the stadium would be eco-friendly and good for the community.

But many community groups and citizens of the area are opposed to the project, saying the exact opposite — that the project would contribute to gentrification and be generally detrimental to those who live in Pointe-Saint-Charles.

What the report says

While the commission's report draws no definite conclusions about the project, it does say any multisport installations in the area should be "accessible and meet the needs of everyone."

The report pointed out that the majority of citizens who gave their opinions online were against the project. It outlined the proposals of groups that say they are specifically addressing what community members need, such as affordable housing.

The report also outlined the points made by those who want to see the stadium built: the economic benefit to local hotels, restaurants and businesses, and that the stadium would be in use year-round, accessible to the community, and become part of the neighbourhood.

But the commissioners said they weren't presented with any studies on the economic, social or environmental impact the project would have, nor was it outlined how building a new stadium would impact existing sporting and cultural installations nearby.

Montreal businessman Stephen Bronfman has his eye on a piece of land just south of downtown for a new baseball stadium. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

They said the expansion of the tennis centre at Jarry Park and Molson Stadium were both subject to their own public consultations, and this project should be as well.

Bronfman is working with the Tampa Bay Rays on a plan to have the team split time between Montreal and the Tampa area. As part of that plan, both cities would build open-air stadiums for the team to play in.

His group released a statement Monday, saying it is reviewing the OCPM's report and will not be commenting at this time.

Mayor Valérie Plante has said she is open to the idea of having a baseball stadium at the Peel Basin.

In a statement Monday, she said the OCPM report shows that Montrealers have "very high expectations" for the area's development. Plante said the city will continue to work on plans in the coming  months, keeping the OCPM report in mind.

"Over the next few months, we will work in collaboration with the various players in the field to respond to the challenges of matching current and future uses," said Coun. Benoit Dorais, chair of the city's executive committee and mayor of the Sud-Ouest borough.

The city ultimately holds the power to grant the necessary permits and put forth zoning changes that would be needed to bring any proposal to fruition. 


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