As you all know, one of the major hurdles facing a return of MLB of the Montreal Expos is the Stadium issue. If, and likely when, MLB does return to Montreal, they will not be moving back into the Big O, that much we know for certain. How so? Let’s look at the Montreal Expos Stadium costs and bring the cost of the build in focus.
MLB Expansion and Stadium Costs
The MLB commissioner said as much, stating the following:
“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.”
That’s about as clear as you can get when it comes to voicing both the timeframe expansion could occur – after TB and OAK stadium issues are resolved – and on what stadium may be used – a new one.
It’s hard to make a direct comparison between a new stadium build in the Tampa Bay area and one on Montreal island, but if we can use the cost estimate ($650M) as a baseline, we have a starting point. Let’s also assume that incoming ownership would have to contribute – at a minimum – 30% of the cost of a new build. That adds up to $200M to be covered by ownership group, and leaves $450M to be covered through other means.
Montreal Expos Stadium: Options to Cover the $450M
It may not represent a significant amount, but one way to cover the cost of a Stadium build is selling the naming rights. This assumes that the new ownership group won’t be putting their logo on the Stadium. If we’re able to assume they’d get another company to put their logo up (possibly Bell Media or Videotron), they’re likely to be able to grab somewhere between $4M and $10M annually.
The Dodgers are reportedly seeking $12M for naming rights to their stadium, which is well above the MLB average. The Braves, meanwhile, were able to secure $10M per season in 2016 (for 25 years), and Target pays the Twins $4M to $6M per season to keep their naming rights to Target Field.
For a Quebec made example, how about the Videotron centre and the amount paid by Quebecor (between $33 million and $63 million up front, plus between $3.15 million and $5 million in annual rent) helped fund the build. (value goes up if an NHL franchise moves into the arena)
For this exercise, let’s assume the Expos get an immediate reduction of $30M and $5M per season for 20 seasons ($100M total). That represents a significant slice of what needs to be covered, even if it isn’t all paid the inaugural season.
Using the Videotron centre build as an example, Quebec city and the Province of Quebec each covered 50% of the build, which indicates that the Province, at a minimum, should be more than willing to do the same for a stadium – or centre – build in Montreal.
The Montreal portion of the investment is more complicated. If the Mayor’s election had been won by Denis Coderre, funding from the city may have been assured. However, Valérie Plante has no plans to fund such an endeavour unless citizens indicate a thirst to do so, or as she put it,
“We love baseball. We want a team in Montreal, but we’re not going to use Montrealers’ money without consulting them,” she said, standing in front of a novelty cheque for $500 million made out to MLB and “signed” by Denis Coderre.
“We have limited financial resources, and there are many needs. Public transport … is a priority, housing is another one, so yes, a baseball team, but not at any cost.”
So to recap, it’s likely the franchise naming rights knock down the cost from what we expect to be closer to $650M to $620M with the ability to cover $5M more annually, and the Province is likely to be willing to cover approximately $325M if they treat Montreal the same way they did Quebec city.
Let’s see if we can get the city to buy in, shall we?
In order to get Montreal to buy in to both MLB and funding a location build, the team will need to get Valérie Plante on board and/or convince Montrealers that it’s the best thing to use money on.
In other words, if MLB is going to return to Montreal, many stakeholders need to be willing to carry some of the load.
The good news is that such a facility can be used for much more than simply Baseball games. Major events, concerts, fairs, expositions, and cultural events can be hosted as well, so is the name the key to funding?
Instead of a “Stadium”, call it “The Montreal Cultural and Sporting Centre”
The name takes it away from being recognized as funding only a baseball stadium, and the focus can be placed on some items that such a venue could be used for, including:
- Cultural events
- Emergency Services – self-sufficient entity (power included) that can provide medical, food, and emergency temporary housing in times of need, such as the Ice Storms
- Quebec Sports Museum – used as a way to promote Sports history – and future of sports – in Quebec (can help replaced the now closed Canadiens hall of fame)
- State-Of-The-Art Training Facility – while there are many training facilities available in Montreal, having one which combines it all in one spot can have its advantages, particularly for the future Expos
- Transportation Hub – Montreal already has a Central Station, but it may soon be antiquated. The advent of the charging stations, Hyperloop, Uber, and other mass transportation means may lead to the requirement of a new transportation hub for Montreal, and what better place to set that up than near and/or under a state-of-the-art Stadium?
All of these items help make any new stadium a centre hub of activity and make getting to – and from – games much easier to accomplish. And if you do this with the right company (Tesla?), you can expect them to help make this happen in an effective and efficient manner.
The main point being that the city gains control of the facility when it’s not being used for Baseball and is able to promote and book the events that enhance the city’s well-being, making it an asset to the city for upwards of 265 days a year.
And that’s a significant source of pride to have in the heart of the city.
Montreal Expos Stadium: Final Thoughts
I’ll be touching on how righting a wrong – going from the Olympic Stadium to another facility’s build – could help the city heal (some) from the stories of corruption that surround the Big O’s construction.
But with the notes made above, you can imagine that the fight to fund a stadium – without even mentioning ownership investment – is one that paints a pretty great picture if the new ownership group is willing to work with other stakeholders.
I’m particularly fond of having Tesla make a new stadium completely off-grid but recognize that it may be a pipe dream.
The point of the article was to make an assessment of just how much money is likely to be required in order to fund what’s left over once the Province and naming rights are taken into account. Assuming a cost of $650M, naming rights up-front payment of $30M, and Province share of $325M, the owners and city of Montreal will likely need to cover approximately $275M.
Should the ownership group want complete control (and profits) of the facility, they could feasibly fund the build on their own. A more likely scenario has them working out an arrangement to share in the costs, but in either case, we do not expect Stadium funding to be a major hurdle if and when expansion of MLB is announced.
– Mat Germain, baseball writer for Expos Reloaded and SB Nation’s DRaysBay, with more than 10 years covering the Toronto Blue Jays (Jays Journal) and Tampa Bay Rays. Still serving in the Canadian Armed Forces as a Reservist and Operations Officer for 413 Search and Rescue Squadron in Greenwood, Nova Scotia. Follow Mat on Twitter @MatGermain76.