Report: Montreal group close to becoming Rays minority shareholder

Stephen Bronfman, right, and Pierre Boivin speak to the media about the prospect of Major League baseball returning to Montreal Wednesday, June 26, 2019 in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/CP)

A man trying to bring Major League Baseball back to Montreal says his group of local business people is close to becoming minority shareholders in the Tampa Bay Rays.

In an interview with the Journal de Montréal‘s Réjean Tremblay published on Saturday, Stephen Bronfman said he and the Rays are just months away from a partnership.

“Over the next few months, maybe three or four without a doubt, our group in Montreal will become co-owners of the Tampa team with Stuart Sternberg, the current owner of the Rays,” Bronfman told the Journal de Montréal. “The negotiations are very advanced. We’re going to become minority shareholders, but that doesn’t bother us at all. Stuart Sternberg is a straight-up man who’s nothing like Jeffrey Loria (former owner of the Expos).”

Bronfman and his group have been trying for over a year to bring MLB back to the Quebec city for the first time since 2004 when the then-Expos moved to Washington and became the Nationals.

Sternberg responded to the report at spring training on Saturday saying it’s not true.

“Eventually, at a point, I would expect and believe they could and would become minority partners. … I need some representation up there,” he told the Tampa Bay Times. “But there’s nothing happening in months. No way.”

A proposal last year from Sternberg would have seen the Rays splitting home games with Montreal as early as 2024, although the idea was squashed by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.

With attendance a persistent issue at Tampa’s home ballpark, Tropicana Field, finding an alternative has been something the team’s ownership group has pursued.

Sternberg said at the MLB’s Winter Meetings in December that the half-and-half plan will happen in 2028 once the team’s agreement at Tropicana Field is over.

Bronfman, meanwhile, has been busy in Montreal trying to make sure the city is ready for the potential return and has worked on securing land near the downtown’s Peel Basin to build a stadium. Bronfman and the Rays will formally present MLB with plans for a shared city concept later this year.

“It’s huge, it’s a concept completely new and we will adventure on the seas that haven’t been explored,” Bronfman told the Journal de Montréal. “It’s very exciting.”

However, Sterberg told the Times that nothing would happen with Montreal until shovels are in the ground and the new stadium is being built.

The Toronto Blue Jays will be playing a pair of exhibition games in Montreal once again this year at Olympic Stadium against the New York Yankees.

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