Ten years after the Montreal Expos moved to Washington D.C. to become the Nationals, Major League Baseball may be getting closer to returning to Quebec and possibly reviving the Expos franchise.
In a recent column for the New York Daily News, Bill Madden reported that sources had told him that Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg “has had discussions with wealthy Wall Street associates about moving the Rays to Montreal.”
In response to the report, the Rays issued a non-denial denial to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, noting that the team “[has] not spoken to Montreal — or any other city, including Tampa — about relocation at any point.”
The team’s statement does not address whether or not Sternberg has discussed moving the team with “wealthy Wall Street associates” as reported by Madden.
This comes just seven months after Montreal hosted a pair of exhibition games in front of huge crowds and just three months after MLB commissioner Bud Selig called the exhibitions “very impressive” and called the city “an excellent candidate [for a franchise] in the future, no question about it.”
The Rays currently have a contract to play in Tropicana Field through 2027. However, MLB has called the ballpark situation “not sustainable” and the Rays have so far failed in their efforts to build a new stadium.
Despite recent success on the field, the Rays have finished last in attendance three straight years, averaging just 17,857 fans per game in 2014.
The downside to Montreal is that they don’t appear to be any closer to building a modern stadium than the Tampa-St. Pete area. Also, if the Rays leave Florida’s west coast, MLB would be abandoning a very good television market at a time when TV ratings are more important than ever.
The Rays have routinely ranked among the top 15 teams in local television ratings.
Ultimately, Montreal may just be a bluff to force the stadium situation in Florida. But for those that long for the days of Les Expos de Montréal there is some hope.
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