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Political Reaction to Montreal MLB Ballpark Site: Mixed

Montreal Expos

Although some officials are expressing preliminary support for a new Montreal MLB ballpark at Peel Basin, the plan is drawing concerns in some corners.

Led by Stephen Bronfman, a group of businesspeople working under the name Montreal Project are laying the groundwork for a plan that could lead to a new Montreal ballpark and the return of MLB. It was revealed this week that the group is pursuing land at Peel Basin for a new ballpark, with the site currently under control of the federal government. The group has registered as lobbyists in order to negotiate a sale or transfer for a new ballpark, which would allow it to plan a facility located just off Montreal’s downtown area

As far as political circles are concerned, early reaction to the very preliminary ballpark proposal has varied in range. Officials from Quebec’s Coalition Avenir Quebec government are expressing a willingness to consider the idea, but initial reaction from Quebec Solidaire showed fears that the plan could lead to demands for extensive government subsidies for the ballpark and team. More from the Canadian Press:

Chantal Rouleau, the minister responsible for Montreal, said the government was “very open” to the proposal and Pierre Fitzgibbon, economy and innovation minister, said the government would be ready to get involved financially if it felt it could get a return on its investment.

But on Thursday, the left-leaning Quebec solidaire came out swinging, arguing against spending any public money on the return of baseball.

“We are for and favour the return of the Expos to Montreal,” Vincent Marissal, a Montreal-area Quebec solidaire member said in Quebec City. “We think it would be a good thing if there’s an interest and if it’s viable, all the better.

“But we’ll ask the government not to commit public funds in this venture because we think baseball is a private business, a profitable business that should work under the principles of private enterprise.”

Given how early it is this early in the process, it is not surprising to see some mixed reaction politically. While the revelation of a preferred site is one of the biggest developments of late in the effort to bring Montreal its first MLB franchise since the Expos moved to Washington after the 2004 season, it would still have to be determined whether the land is viable for a new ballpark. Additionally, the Montreal Group would have to figure out how to finance the facility while accounting for the sizable private expense that will be the acquisition of an MLB franchise.

Expansion appears to be the more likely path for Montreal at this point, but MLB has not announced formal plans to jump to 32 teams. With the Oakland Athletics pursuing a new Howard Terminal ballpark and the Tampa Bay Rays looking like they may reopen talks to stay in St. Petersburg, MLB will likely look to address its last two ballpark issues before delving into the inevitable expansion talk and planning.

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