LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Commissioner Rob Manfred dismissed concern that the defeat of baseball supporter Denis Coderre in Montreal’s recent mayoral election would impact the city’s chances of landing a team again, repeating that a "concrete" stadium plan remains key to an Expos rebirth.
Coderre had stumped publicly and worked behind the scenes to position Montreal as a leading candidate to eventually land a club, either through relocation or expansion.
Valerie Plante, who unseated him in the Nov. 5 vote, pledged during the campaign to hold a referendum in the next election to gauge the willingness of Montrealers to contribute public funds towards landing a team.
"Politics ebbs and flows," Manfred said Thursday at the conclusion of owners’ meetings. "I think I’ve been clear that expansion will come to active consideration after the situations in Tampa and Oakland have been resolved. I’m not sure who’s going to be the mayor of Montreal at that point.
"I do know that it will be extraordinarily unlikely for baseball to return to Montreal without some concrete plan as to where a team would play. We’re not going back to play at Olympic Stadium."
Earlier this week the Quebec government gave the go-ahead to replace the roof of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium for an expected cost of up to $250 million. That project is not tied to efforts to bring MLB baseball back to Montreal and does not necessarily preclude the construction of a new outdoor stadium.
The Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics, long seeking new stadiums to ensure their local viability, appear to be making progress toward new facilities that would allow them to stay put.
The Toronto Blue Jays have hosted a pair of exhibition games before large and exuberant crowds at Olympic Stadium in each of the past four years, and will return again next year for two games against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Still, among the issues that led the Expos to leave for Washington at the end of the 2004 season was an inability to get a new downtown stadium built.
Plante, standing by an enlarged faux cheque from the city for $500 million made out to Major League Baseball and signed by Coderre, told reporters in September that, "We love baseball, and we want a team to come back to Montreal, but we’re not going to use Montrealers’ money without consulting them."