Rodger Brulotte says there’s an investment group willing to bring Major League Baseball back to Montreal. Are they serious, or are Expos fans getting their hopes up unnecessarily?
When the Expos left Montreal and Olympic Stadium, there were some pretty bad feelings all around: locals were upset about Jeffry Loria dumping the franchise in MLB’s lap as well as MLB’s absentee management of the team, which meant talent firesales, low payrolls and little in the way of imaginative game-day operations. Truth is, many thought the market was salted, and since then attempts to bring indy ball to Montreal have failed, partly because of a lack of enthusiasm from local officials.
But Brulotte, the team’s former French-language broadcaster, insists the investment group is for real. A recent Conference Board of Canade research report indicated the market could support MLB, though it would be more like a Kansas City or Toronto than a Los Angeles or Seattle in terms of revenues and fan support. At one point Montreal was a top MLB market in terms of attendance, when the Expos ruled. And with the Canadian dollar almost at par with the American dollar — a situation that probably won’t change in the next decade — a Canadian team wouldn’t at an instant disadvantage the way the Expos and Blue Jays were when there was a wide gap in exchange rates.
There’s one huge reason to believe Brulotte, who won’t reveal anything about the investment group: Canada is on the verge of multiple 24-hour sports cable networks when Quebecor comes out with yet another one, joining Rogers (which, not so coincidentally, owns the Toronto Blue Jays) and Bell Media in the market. Quebecor has already shown a willingness in investing in sports properties with a big stake in a proposed Quebec City arena. Adding an MLB team to the mix for a French-language cable network isn’t the worst idea in the world.
It’s perhaps not so absurd that MLB returns to Montreal. After all, MLB returned to Washington in recent years, in a blueprint that could easily be followed in Montreal: negotiate for a new ballpark, park a team in an old ballpark for a couple of years and then debut with a clean slate.
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