Still trying to bring MLB back to Montreal, investors seek provincial funding

·2 min read
Stephen Bronfman and his team are hoping the Quebec government will pitch in some money to help build a new baseball stadium.  (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Stephen Bronfman and his team are hoping the Quebec government will pitch in some money to help build a new baseball stadium. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Led by local businessman Stephen Bronfman, a group of investors is hoping to get funding from the Quebec government to help bring Major League Baseball back to the city of Montreal.

As of last Friday, two people are registered on the province's registry of lobbyists on behalf of the Montreal Baseball Group, including Richard Epstein, a lawyer with BCF Business Law.

The details on the registrations make it clear that they wish to speak with the province about how it could help pay for the construction of a new ball park in Griffintown.

Bronfman and his team are trying to get a stadium built, and become shareholders of the Tampa Bay Rays so that the team could eventually play half of its 81 home games in Montreal.

"Since last year, Montreal Baseball Group has made lots of progress to develop the sister-city project with the Tampa Bay Rays, including the construction of a new sports and community complex on the site of the Wellington Basin," the group said in a statement to La Presse Canadienne.

"We wish to exchange, over the next months, with the Quebec government about the economic effects of our project and what form a financial contribution could take."

So far, the group has not asked for funding at the municipal or federal level.

During a news conference Tuesday, Premier François Legault said the government is open to giving the group a loan that would eventually be turned into a subsidy if the tax revenue generated by the project is greater than the amount of the original loan.

He said it is a strategy being used with other kinds of businesses already.

"It's a win-win situation," he said.

Legault pointed out that the baseball players would pay tax in Quebec, bringing in tax dollars that wouldn't be in government coffers if the team didn't exist.

Montreal Baseball Group is hoping to build the stadium on property owned by Canada Lands Company, a crown corporation. Bronfman is partnering with the real estate developer, Devimco, with plans to purchase the site.

Last summer, Bronfman told La Presse Canadienne that the project was moving along well even if the pandemic had slowed things down.

In a statement, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation blasted the idea of using public funds to build a professional baseball stadium.

"If Bronfman really wants a taxpayer-funded stadium, Montreal already has one of those," CTF Quebec Director Renaud Brossard said, in reference to the Olympic Stadium.