Baseball is on its way to coming back to Montreal. In an unprecedented move, Major League Baseball has granted permission for the Tampa Bay Rays to explore the option of a two-city team. First reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the early part of the season would be played in Tampa Bay. The remainder of the games would be finished north of the border in Montreal, home of the former Montreal Expos.
Exploration of Two-City Option Approved
The attendance at Tampa Bay Rays home games has been dismal for quite some time. Despite a 43-31 record and possessing stellar young talent, their average attendance is 14,546. This is the second-lowest in Major League Baseball. For years, there have been constant inroads between the Rays and the city of Tampa on building a new stadium. The Rays organization’s only viable option is to test the two-city system out, with Tropicana Field still intact.
The plan is in its infant stages. But the idea of playing early games in Tampa would reduce the costs of constructing a new building with a dome. The next hurdle is getting a new stadium approved in Montreal. While Olympic Stadium has historical value, a new ballpark is much needed.
This past February, Stephen Bronfman, whose father was the original owner of the Montreal Expos, approached the Quebec Provincial Government for assistance in obtaining the land needed for a new stadium. A month ago, Bronfman and Montreal business executive Mitch Garber wanted to have minority ownership of the Tampa Bay Rays, alongside current owner Stuart Steinberg. The two have reached an agreement on the land a mile south of downtown Montreal on the southern shore of Peel Basin.
Tampa Bay Rays May Bring Baseball Back to Montreal After All
Baseball in Montreal departed in 2005. The Montreal Expos molded into the current Washington Nationals, leaving a passionate fan base disenfranchised.
The Expos are a team with three Hall of Fame players (Gary Carter, Andre Dawson and Tim Raines). They displayed a plethora of success in the 1990’s, where they were favoured to win the World Series in 1994 before the labour strike. While a disinterested fan base propelled the team to leave Montreal in 2004, many baseball supporters have come back in full force. When the Toronto Blue Jays play their preseason games in Montreal, the fans fill up Olympic Stadium. As Stephen Bronfman stated back in December, he wants to “make sure that this is sustainable, that this is real, and that we’re in it to win it,” when it comes to bringing baseball back to Montreal.
A lot of logistical questions still need to be answered. The Rays still need to strike a deal with the city to build a new stadium. But with the economic potential and zealous fan base, the idea of baseball coming back to Montreal is getting closer to reality.
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