Today and Saturday, April 3 and 4, Montreal will host two spring training games between the Cincinnati Reds and the Toronto Blue Jays. There appear to be more than 90,000 tickets sold for both games and despite it being Passover and Easter, I would not be surprised if that figure went to 100,000.
That’s great! There will be thunderous applause for Russell Martin, Vladimir Guerrero, Orlando Cabrera, and others. Both teams will field what should be their opening day lineups so the quality of baseball should also prove to be entertaining. After the final out is recorded on Saturday, and the Reds and Jays start their season, as Montrealers, we have to ask ourselves: OK, what’s next?
By next, I don’t mean “I can’t wait for two more spring training games next year” and repeat the fun we had in 2014 and 2015. Montreal is not a carnival stop for Major League Baseball. I am not so sure that the fans will continue to pay $89 for tickets to meaningless games indefinitely. I don’t believe this line of reasoning is sustainable. So again, I ask, what’s next?
Cromartie, as the mouthpiece for Montreal Baseball Project, preaches, taking it slowly. Yesterday, in an interview, Mayor Coderre interrupted a reporter and said, “… on se calme…”, further stating one step at a time.
One step at a time is fine but the pace needs to be picked up. There have to be more concrete steps towards bringing back a team here. A season ticket drive à la Las Vegas for the NHL would be quite timely, for example.
The fan base is not asking names to be made public, we get that. However, greater momentum is the order of the day. In my very first post, I talked about the stars beginning to align. Well, guess what? The stars are aligned and it’s time to kick the project into overdrive.
The “aligned” stars are:
Team availability – The greatest opportunity for Montreal to get a team is for the Rays to move here. That’s the cold, hard truth. Sternberg is dragging his feet in Florida. He clearly does not want to keep his team in St. Petersburg, or Tampa, for that matter.
Ownership – Coderre and Cromartie are clear on the fact that an ownership group is in place, solide!, says Coderre.
Political Will – We have an ambassador at the municipal level and a provincial government in power that will stay out of the way. This very good political climate has a shelf life: 2018. Quebecers are a fickle electorate and I would not be surprised to see the Parti québecois in power in late 2018. How much positive energy can we expect from a sovereignist government towards Montreal? Can we afford this needless distraction?
The Stadium – Again, Coderre is clear that he wants a stadium near the water. A project, financed by the Caisse de dépôt, that would include the Pont Champlain, a new baseball stadium, and a light rail system, makes perfect sense.
Major League Baseball will return to Montreal, one day, I am 100% convinced of this. I have given the opinion that the Rays will leave St. Petersburg by the end of the 2016 season. Now that the stars are aligned. it is possible the Rays will be relocated to Montreal as early as the 2017 baseball season. Aggressive but possible.
One thing is certain: If we don’t start turning soil for a new stadium by 2018, we need to be realistic and hold off on the Expos’ return until at least 2028.
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