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Montreal Official: Olympic Stadium Roof Won’t Affect MLB Pursuit

Olympic Stadium

A major investment in a new Olympic Stadium roof before the 2026 World Cup should not affect Montreal’s pursuit of a Major League Baseball team, according to a city official. 

Olympic Stadium, former home of the Montreal Expos, is slated to a receive a new retractable roof in the coming years. While a roof replacement had already been in the works, it is receiving significant attention now that a joint bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico has been accepted for the 2026 World Cup. Montreal is expected to host multiple games during the 2026 World Cup, and the new Olympic Stadium roof is slated to be installed in time for that event. (Sister site Soccer Stadium Digest has more on this story.)

The new roof is expected to cost between $200 million and $300 million, and some concerns have been expressed that the sizable investment and upcoming World Cup are taking precedence over discussions about a new ballpark. However, Montreal city councillor Rosannie Filato, recently stressed that the two should not conflict with one another. According to Filato, the investment in Olympic Stadium’s roof makes it a more viable venue going forward but does not shift any focus away from discussions of a new ballpark–something that will be needed for Montreal to land an MLB team. More from the Montreal Gazette:

“It’s something that the FIFA requested,” Montreal city councillor Rosannie Filato said about the retractable roof during a media scrum Wednesday morning at Centre Nutrilait, the Impact’s practice facility. “However, it’s already something that was going to be done. When we talk about economic impacts and great financial impacts, we’re talking about approximately $200 million (from the World Cup games) that’s estimated to go back to the city of Montreal. So it’s very important to know that while we’re investing in an infrastructure, which will be a long-term investment, we’re also getting short-term benefits of $200 million that’s coming back to the city. So it’s great news.

“There’s not even a direct link between FIFA and the Olympic Stadium roof,” Filato added. “The reason why they’re doing the retractable roof is because it’s a long-term investment because it’s required by more and more associations now to hold large sporting events. So it’s symbolic because we gave our (World Cup) candidacy, now it’s in Montreal, so it seems to be an investment that’s directly for soccer. Of course it’s going to benefit (soccer) but it’s going to benefit the city of Montreal to get the FIFA World Cup. But there’s no direct link between the sports.”

Filato added that the money being spent to fix up Olympic Stadium for the World Cup doesn’t mean there’s no possibility of a new downtown baseball stadium if the Expos were to return. The cost of building a new downtown ball park has been estimated at around $500 million and Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has made it clear that if Montreal is going to get a team again there needs to be a plan in place for a new stadium, stating last November: “We’re not going to play in Olympic Stadium.”

“The possibility of getting a stadium for baseball as well has never been put into question,” Filato said. “There’s been discussions between Robert Beaudry, who’s in economic development (for the city of Montreal), and Mayor (Valérie) Plante with those who want a stadium for baseball for the return of the Expos, or whichever team. What we’ve always maintained as a position is that we’d like the team first, we want that assurance first. And we want to make sure that if the city of Montreal invests money that we consult the population first. So holding the FIFA World Cup does not mean that there won’t be a return of baseball.”

There is still plenty of work to be done before Montreal lands a team, including putting together a firm ballpark plan and having an opportunity from MLB to receive a club. Expansion appears to be on the league’s radar for the future, but not until the ongoing ballpark searches of the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays are settled. Both are currently working to secure new ballparks in their current regions, so neither them appear to be viable relocation candidates for now.

Olympic Stadium was home to the Expos from 1977-2004. While Montreal has not had a team of its own since the Expos relocated to Washington after the 2004 season, Olympic Stadium has been used for a variety of events in the period following the team’s departure–including select MLS matches for the Montreal Impact and annual spring training games for the Toronto Blue Jays.

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