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Could baseball return to Montreal? Maybe, possibly

Dec 13, 2013, 12:39 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

Nearly ten years after the Expos moved to Washington to become the Nationals, the city of Montreal is discussing bringing baseball back.

A new study from the Montreal Gazette explores the possibility by looking at the specific costs a new team would require. Their findings include a $525 million price tag to purchase a team and $500 million to construct a new stadium. The venue would reportedly be able to hold 36,000 fans and go without a roof, similar to Target Field in Minnesota.

Baseball has been missing from Quebec’s largest city since 2004 when the sport returned to Washington for the first time in 33 years. The Expos existed for 36 seasons and made the playoffs just once, but for years they turned out talent like few other teams. Randy Johnson, Larry Walker, Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Vladimir Guerrero, Tim Raines and Andres Galarraga all began their careers in Montreal. Pedro Martinez and Moises Alou also become stars there.

The article in the Gazette presents the study in a cautious way, as they know how tough it was on the city to see the team leave. They probably don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up or suggest anything is going to happen soon.

Regardless, the thought of baseball potentially returning to Montreal some day, that city officials are discussing it actively, should give some former Expos fans a little hope for future summers. It could also lay the groundwork for another city’s team to pack up and leave. Fans of Montreal and Washington know that feeling all too well.

  1. Sonny G 10 - Dec 13, 2013 at 2:00 PM

    Man, does that sound strange. I don’t think there is any team doing poorly enough to want to move to Montreal at present time, but who knows. I would hope we could keep our former Expo fans who are now Nats fans.

    • jd - Dec 13, 2013 at 2:18 PM

      The Rays are making all kinds of noises about leaving St.Pete’s

  2. Eugene in Oregon - Dec 13, 2013 at 2:00 PM

    Les Pastenagues de Montreal? Does Evan Longoria speak French?

  3. Doc - Dec 13, 2013 at 2:01 PM

    Yeah, I suppose.

    Having been a ‘Spos fan for some past years, it might be nice to have a team back there.. However, the best thing, at this point, about the past team, is that it has made me a current Nats’ fan!

    But #1 the city would have to show that it wants to compete for a team, unlike what they demonstrated with the exiting of the franchise from Montreal. Bronfman, and his moolah, kept the Expos competitive, and when he went, the team summarily declined. A lot of players were lost to a poorly funded franchise, not the least of which was Larry Walker.

    #2, the stadium will need to be larger, and covered in a similar manner to the Jays’ stadium.

  4. jd - Dec 13, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    Doc,

    As someone who lived in Montreal for a long time I think I know what will work there.

    1) Open air stadium. I know the weather is iffy but people simply won’t go to places which have zero atmosphere.

    2) A downtown stadium will absolutely work. People will go to games in droves after work if it’s in the right area.

    3) There must be stable ownership with deep pockets. You don’t want Jeffrey Loria types ever again.

    4) The Tampa Bay Rays.

    • David Proctor - Dec 13, 2013 at 2:25 PM

      Aren’t 3 and 4 contradictory? Not that the Rays ownership is Loria-esque, but not exactly deep pockets.

      • jd - Dec 13, 2013 at 5:02 PM

        I thought they were pretty solid. I think the ball park and the lease preclude the franchise from being profitable but I don’t think the owners are a problem.

    • Doc - Dec 13, 2013 at 4:35 PM

      Sounds like a plan, jd!

      I used to fly into Montreal from B.C. to catch a game or two.

      Very upset when they left. There are fans in Montreal for the right ownership.

  5. jd - Dec 13, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    And Doc,

    I have been an Expo/Nats fan from the get go and I will always be one. It will be nice to have a team to root for in the other league when I visit the family in Montreal.

  6. sjm308 - Dec 13, 2013 at 2:24 PM

    Montreal is absolutely one of my favorite cities.
    I went to a game after finding out we were in the running for the Expos and understood immediately why they would be moving.
    It was a game with the St. Louis Cardinals and if there were 3,000 people I would be surprised. No lines, went right to the ticket window and got seats 3 rows behind 3rd base dugout where me and 20 of my closest new Canadian friends watched a nice game. You could literally hear everything, 3rd base coach, dugout chatter, even the catcher. If was an empty cavernous hole of a park.
    So I agree totally with jd – if Minnesota can do it, so can Montreal and again, it is a terrific city!! I would move either of the Florida teams in a heart beat speaking as a fan. Just make sure they don’t let Loria go anywhere near it. What a great away trip that would make for any and all Nationals fans.
    Great city
    Great beer
    Great baseball

    Go Nats!!

  7. masterfishkeeper - Dec 13, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    Didn’t Mark Langston say, after he was traded from Seattle to Montreal, that it was like being in a foreign country?

    http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/chat/_/id/45384

    • pjnat - Dec 13, 2013 at 2:56 PM

      It is a foreign country. Very, very European in terms of atmosphere and culture (and most people speak French and English as opposed to Spanish as a second language). Radically different from Toronto even though the two cities are a mere 350 miles apart.

  8. pjnat - Dec 13, 2013 at 2:53 PM

    As an Expos fan whose allegiance relocated to Washington when the team moved (heck, I even made the pilgrimage for opening day at Nats Park), I’d love to see a team in Montreal again. The political situation has indeed stabilized there (to some degree) and it may be time for baseball again in the land of poutine. But I wouldn’t consider switching my support to a franchise there… it’s Nats or nothing as far as I’m concerned.

    FWIW: the committee looking at reacquiring a Montreal MLB team maintains it would have to be in the American League to take advantage of natural geographical rivalries, i.e. Boston, Toronto and the Yankees. And we all know it’s not real baseball when you have a DH. Bonne Chance, Montreal!

  9. Section 222 - Dec 13, 2013 at 3:13 PM

    I’ve always admired the Expos fans whose allegiance travelled with the team, rather than switching to the Red Sox or Blue Jays. You guys are great, and I would never dis’ your beautiful city.

    Having said that, is Montreal really at the top of the list of where a team that might move (cough, Rays, cough) would want to go? I guess it depends on what inducements the city offers, particularly in terms of a publicly funded stadium. Still, those memories of empty Olympic Stadium are going to be pretty hard to shake, aren’t they?

    • jd - Dec 13, 2013 at 3:27 PM

      Sec 222,

      That place was like a morgue and still the town was wired when the Expos where contenders fro 79 – 81, I mean a sold out stadium every night. What happened through the years is that once Bronfman sold the team it had such poor ownership that the team constantly lost it’s best players and it became very difficult to muster and hope. When Loria bought the team the plan was to build a down town open air stadium and the team even leased a parcel of land for that purpose, I tell you it would have worked too.

      Montreal definitely has enough baseball fans to support a team, what I am not sure about is the presence of real deep pocketed committed people who are willing to take this on.

  10. rmoore446 - Dec 13, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    I have my doubts about an open air stadium in Montreal. I remember Jarry Park in 1969 and how bitterly cold those games were in April. They did generate some excitement with Rusty Staub, Mack Jones, and the very popular Coco Laboy popping some homers in that small park. But I recall the park was rather open with nothing much to break the very cold wind.

  11. jd - Dec 13, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    moore446,

    Still. Some of my fondest Montreal baseball memories come from that pretend stadium.It’s a heck of a lot nicer than that albatross in Toronto.

  12. shawndc04 - Dec 13, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    It would be great if Montreal got a team. For some reason unknown I became a fan of them when Dick Williams was the manager and they had The Hawk, Steve Rogers, Valentine and Warren Cromartie. I actually went to Montreal with a friend in 2003 and persuaded her to go to a game in return for my going to the Botanical Gardens across the street from the ballpark. It was on a Monday or Tuesday in August/September and Javier Vazquez shut out the Giants on 3 hits if I remember correctly in Olympic Stadium before a modest crowd.

    Montreal Athletics?

  13. Doc - Dec 13, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    Thanks to all you Americans for making us Canadians feel some good memories about our Expos. And yes Montreal is a great city.

    When the team was being supported, the fans (across Canada) did a good job of turning out to watch games. Probably better than what the Marlins, Rays, and Athletics have experienced.

  14. sjm308 - Dec 13, 2013 at 5:23 PM

    I am not familiar with the Oakland/San Jose situation, but off the top of my head, I can’t think of a city that is more ideal for a major league team. It also could have several sponsors with deep pockets. I am pretty sure that Molson is headquartered there and what is more natural then baseball & beer.

    I love the comments so far and agree with just about everyone. Toronto is totally different and while Olympic Stadium was indeed a morgue, the Blue Jays stadium just didn’t move me. Better food in Montreal, better jazz, better history, an old town to die for, and we would get announcements in two languages. What’s not to like.

    • jd - Dec 13, 2013 at 5:35 PM

      Molson owns the Canadiens so yeah that works.

  15. sjm308 - Dec 13, 2013 at 5:28 PM

    Not to mention there would be two national anthems!!

    ” Oh Canada, our home & native land.
    True Patriot love, in all thy sons command.”

    I used to coach in the NAIA which had several Canadian teams competing at our national championships and became great friends with the coach from Simon Fraser University. His team would sing their anthem right after they played the Star Spangled Banner and I had my kids learn the words to sing along. Its a great anthem.

  16. hantiaolang - Dec 13, 2013 at 5:56 PM

    All of my impressions growing up were that Montreal was a wonderful baseball town that really supported the team through most of the early decades (70s, 80s, and early 90s). In addition to their HOFers or near-HOFers mentioned above, they really embraced players like Rusty Staub, the Big-O (Al Oliver), and Dennis Martinez.

    Unfortunately, they never had a chance to even compete to re-sign their best best players: Langston, Pedro, Randy Johnson, Larry Walker, etc. They also repeatedly got hosed by baseball – strikes in ’81 and ’94 when they were in 1st place, lousy ownership (the whole Loria-Henry-MLB swap of teams), then MLB gutted their team and had them play in Puerto Rico for many “home” games at the end. That would sour any fan base.

    I’m ecstatic the Nats are in Washington but feel bad for Montreal.

    As posters mentioned above, however, I would be very surprised if Montreal gets a team before North Carolina or Tennessee. Charlotte already supports franchises in football and b-ball and Raleigh has hockey. There are about 6 MiLB teams within 60 miles of Raleigh, stretching from Zebulon (Carolina Mudcats) to Winston-Salem, that can easily draw upon over 1 million people living in that baseball corridor.

    In Tennessee, Phil Wood reported that Nashville is designing a new AAA stadium with the intention of being expanded if an MLB team comes to town. Memphis is also a candidate.

  17. hantiaolang - Dec 13, 2013 at 10:09 PM

    Whoops – Cincy had the best overall season in 1981 and didn’t make it. Montreal lost to LA in the NLCS.

    I know some players listed above were traded before FA; just saying Montreal HAD to trade them b/c they wouldn’t have been able to re-sign them anyway, ala Tampa.

    Montreal is a baseball town and deserves a team in a good ballpark in that beautiful city, but I think NC and Tennessee would be favored by the MLB hierarchy.

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