City support for pro baseball's return should be put to a referendum, says Projet Montréal

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre's official opposition, Projet Montréal, says any city involvement in the return of professional baseball, including the building of a new stadium, should be put to a referendum.

Coderre has made no secret of his desire to see professional baseball return to Montreal. Yet Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has made it clear that the city needs a new stadium for that to happen.

The estimated cost of building a new stadium and securing a professional team for Montreal is estimated at around $1.5 billion.

Projet Montréal said municipal funding for such a project would either come in the form of a direct subsidy or a supplementary tax, and citizen support for it needs to be tested.

A referendum on the issue could be held alongside Montreal's municipal election in November, Projet Montréal said. 

"When we're talking investing in a project with that kind of price tag, there are many risks," said Eric Alan Caldwell, a Projet Montreal city councillor for Hochelaga.

Quebec City arena a case in point, Projet says

Caldwell raised the spectre of the $400-million Vidéotron Centre in Quebec City, which was financed by the municipal and provincial governments without the guarantee of an NHL team returning to the city.

"The results aren't there," Caldwell said. "A team may not come, or it might come and then leave. That's what happened in Quebec City."

Coderre said it's premature to consider a referendum on the issue. He said Projet Montréal is looking for a platform to run on in November and he'll leave them to their work.

"They won't dictate my administration's agenda," he said.

He said the call for a referendum is part of Projet Montréal's general efforts to make an issue of the fact the provincial government is moving to abolish citizen-led referendums under Bill 122.

Investors say governments on board 

A group of private investors is spearheading efforts to bring Major League Baseball back to Montreal. A member of that group recently told The Canadian Press that it has "all the ingredients to make that happen," including support from two levels of government, various potential locations for a stadium as well as at least five different designs for the venue.

Montreal businessmen Stephen Bronfman and Mitch Garber publicly revealed their commitment to the project last year, while Bronfman and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre co-signed a 2015 letter that was sent to the 30 MLB teams as well as to Manfred.

The letter spoke of Montreal's interest in rejoining the major leagues for the first time since 2004, when the Expos left to become the Washington Nationals.