Last month I wrote “Target: Sell-Out – 2014 was a party, it’s for real in 2015”. The post stressed the importance of selling out the upcoming Spring Training baseball games to be held at Olympic Stadium on April 3 and 4. Well ladies and gentlemen, we did it! As of this writing, one cannot purchase two consecutive seats for either game. There are singles sparsely located throughout the seating chart. You can try it yourself by going to the evenko site.
From this point forward, no one can say that last year was a fluke. This year, Major League Baseball will be shining a bright on Montreal. Rest assured that people involved in eventually granting Montreal another franchise will be in attendance. I am looking to one key signal: if Rob Manfred, the new MLB Commissioner is in attendance, it’s done. One way or another a team is coming here. Will it be the Rays or an expansion franchise? In the nearer term, I will continue to be of the opinion that the Rays are moving to Montreal.
Speaking of signs, the Rays and the City of St. Petersburg have sent a sign or two of their own:
1) In December of 2014, the St. Petersburg city council voted against adopting the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which would have allowed the Rays to explore for stadium sites outside their county. In turn, the Rays stood firm on the provisions of the MoU. Politicians and journalists called for a cooling of period. Cool all you want, the damage has been done.
2) The Rays offloaded players and salaries reminiscent of the San Juan Expos. Sternberg clearly signalled restraint to his baseball operations staff. After all is said and done with arbitration eligible players, the Rays will be under last year’s $77M salary base. Look for further decline in attendance.
3) Silence may also be a signal. Not a single business person with major wealth has said that baseball in either Tampa or St. Pete is viable.
Back in Montreal, we are ready. Mayor Denis Coderre sent a signal about a major overhaul of baseball infrastructure in Montreal. The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, essentially Quebecers’ pension fund, may become an investor in the construction of a baseball stadium, at least this is how I interpret the agreement. This was a brilliant move in the name of Montreal economic development. This had to be done while there was a Liberal majority in place. The Parti Québecois would never enact such an agreement favoring Montreal.
So the stage is set. We have two sell-outs for the Blue Jays vs Reds exhibition games. With newly elected Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez hopefully in attendance, it will be insane atmosphere. There will likely also be some timely announcements demonstrating progress in our journey for the return of major league baseball.
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