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Former Quebec Premier Signals Early Montreal Ballpark Project Support

Montreal Expos

A proposed project led by Stephen Bronfman that would feature a new Montreal ballpark has picked up some prominent early supporters, including former Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard.

Last week, Bronfman pitched his group’s vision for redevelopment of land at Montreal’s Peel Basin to city officials. As part of a development project that would include new residential and commercial space, an open-air ballpark would be constructed to accommodate a Major League Baseball franchise. This pitch comes at a point where Montreal’s MLB prospects have come into focus, as the league opted this summer to grant the Tampa Bay Rays permission to explore a split-season arrangement that would include new ballparks in the Montreal and Tampa Bay markets.

The group received some support in a recent letter to the city’s l’Office de consultation publique de Montreal (OCPM) signed by Bouchard and two prominent businessmen: Daniel Lamarre of Cirque du Soleil and Louis Vachon of National Bank. In their letter, the trio stopped short of making an outright judgement on the project, but nonetheless praised members of the Montreal Group and advocated that consideration of the project move forward. More from The Canadian Press:

In a letter sent to l’Office de consultation publique de Montreal (OCPM), Bouchard and businessmen Daniel Lamarre of Cirque du Soleil and Louis Vachon of National Bank write that the return of a Major League baseball team could provide significant spin-offs for Montreal and Quebec and that it is important to allow Bronfman’s Montreal Baseball Project to make progress.

“The members of the Montreal Baseball Project are citizens who are committed to the development of Montreal, respect for the environment, and they will be concerned to ensure the social acceptability of their project,” wrote the three men.

The Montreal Public Advisory Board is currently conducting consultations on the future of the Peel Basin, the area that Bronfman and other business people want to operate.

The three signatories on the letter do not make a definitive judgement on the project, claiming that it is not their responsibility to speculate on the conclusion of the process or to express an opinion on the substance of the project at this stage.

Notably, the Bouchard-led government was not on board with allocating funds toward the construction of Labbatt Park, a proposed Montreal Expos ballpark that surfaced in the late 1990’s and never came to fruition. The Expos later relocated to Washington after the 2004 season, and Montreal has been without an MLB franchise since.

As part of the vision Bronfman presented last week, the open-air ballpark would be built with a capacity of upwards of 34,000 and serve as the centerpiece of a development that would include commercial space and residences. For now, there are still plenty of questions about the prospects of a new Montreal ballpark and MLB team. It remains to be seen if the proposal will gain the traction it needs politically, and plenty of obstacles would have to be overcome to make the proposed split-season arrangement a reality–something that Bronfman acknowledged earlier this year while describing the proposal as an important step to bring MLB back to Montreal.

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