MONTREAL — Stephen Bronfman and his right-hand man Pierre Boivin will present their vision for the development of the Peel Basin to the hearings of the Montreal Public Advisory Board for the development of the Bridge-Wellington area on Thursday evening.
The executive chairman of Claridge, who wishes to bring a Major League Baseball team back to Montreal, will present his vision for the neighbourhood, which would include a 32,000-seat baseball stadium.
Boivin, president and CEO of Claridge, is leading the neighbourhood’s residential and commercial development, which will be done in partnership with developer Devimco, which will be heard in the afternoon.
Bronfman could present the first sketches of this future stadium. La Presse reported earlier this week that Bronfman wants to build a “green” stadium.
Bronfman and Devimco are trying to acquire some one million square feet in Griffintown in the last undeveloped neighbourhood near downtown Montreal. Some community groups are opposed to the arrival of a baseball club in the neighborhood and want more social housing.
This is the latest step for Bronfman and his group to win a Major League Baseball franchise. Last June, Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg revealed that he had obtained permission from MLB to explore the possibility of sharing the season between St. Petersburg, Florida, and Montreal, an unprecedented project that would require the construction of a new stadium in each of the cities.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has already spoken out against the project. He said the contract that binds the Rays to his municipality for the use of Tropicana Field – until 2027 – states that all games must be played there.
Three meetings between the Rays leadership and the mayor’s St. Pete office have been held so far, with nothing transpiring from the discussions held there.
Wednesday, Bronfman, Richard Epstein and William Jegher, who are also part of the Montreal Group, watched the wild card game in Oakland where the Rays beat the Oakland Athletics 5-1. Sternberg was quick to point out to the Tampa Bay Times that he had not invited Bronfman and his group, but had facilitated the purchase of tickets for the Montrealer, a ‘big fan of baseball,’ he stressed.
When we know that nothing is said or done without calculation in this file, Sternberg’s story sounds wrong.
Bring baseball back
It has been six years since the project to bring Major League Baseball back to Montreal returned to the news.
In October 2013, Warren Cromartie, a former outfielder from the Expos, invited Montreal media to talk to them about the ‘project of his life.’ While many doubted the seriousness of this project, many believed.
Among them, Michel Leblanc, of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, who conducted a market study funded by his organization and some business people in Montreal.
Stephen Bronfman and his partners in the Montreal Group – Alain Bouchard (Couche-Tard), Mitch Garber (then head of Ceasars Interactive Entertainment), Eric Boyko (Stingray) and Stephane Cretier (Garda World) – helped to pay the costs.
Published in December 2013, the results of the market survey indicated that the project is viable, with an average attendance of 27,000 people in a 30 to 32,000-seat stadium built downtown.
Starting in March 2014, the Toronto Blue Jays, in collaboration with Evenko, also played their last two pre-season games at the Montreal Olympic Stadium, rekindling interest in baseball.
In January 2015, Robert Manfred Jr. succeeded Bud Selig as MLB Commissioner. From the beginning of his term, Manfred talked about internationalizing more baseball and evoked a possible expansion. Whenever he had the opportunity, he praised the Montreal market, “a Major League city,” he said.
The following year, the public learned about Stephen Bronfman’s involvement in the project. Bronfman confirmed in April 2016 that he was at the head of the project. The Montreal businessman is the son of Charles Bronfman, the first Expos owner.
His group found the financial package necessary for the arrival of a Major League club included either relocation or expansion. He has also partnered with Bell Media with whom he said he began negotiations for the nomenclature rights of a possible stadium.
Identifying Peel Basin as the construction site for this stadium was also an important step. Now the group must acquire the land.
This report by the Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2019.