The Montreal Expos left town in 2004 to become the Washington Nationals. But loyal fans have never given up hope that they might get another Major League Baseball franchise.
Now, according to the New York Times, they may have reason for optimism. The paper says Montreal seems to have the best shot of the cities under consideration, including San Antonio, Charlotte, N.C., and Las Vegas.
Says the Times,
“With a population of over four million people in the metropolitan area, Montreal is the largest city in North America without a baseball team, and it now has two French-language sports television networks thirsting for content, unlike in the days when the Expos left.”
Also helping Montreal’s cause is the city’s surging status as a global destination. Its tourism has boomed with the help of its dynamic restaurant industry. Montreal repeatedly ranks as one of the easiest cities to get around in without a car, thanks to its Metro, bus and bicycle sharing systems.
There is a vocal group called the Montreal Baseball Project pushing for baseball’s return. The Times says it helped produce a $400,000 study that concluded a team could thrive in Montreal.
The study included a handful of sites for a possible stadium, too.
MLB will make its decision largely on the economics, not just because fans want a team. Attendance plummeted before the Expos left, so the league will want to know there can be consistent support should baseball return.
There’s some proof of that: the past two years, the Toronto Blue Jays played sets of two-game series at the Olympic Stadium, once used by the Expos. It drew 96,000 fans for each series.
If the league doesn’t expand, one option could be to re-locate the Tampa Bay Rays to Montreal, the Times said. The Rays had the worst attendance in baseball in each year since 2012, and sell only about 16,000 tickets per game.
For story ideas, is your city one of the ones that would like an MLB franchise? How does your MLB team draw? Has there been any talk of incentives to help or keep your team?