It’s clear Major League Baseball won’t return to Montreal before the process of a new park is started but don’t think for one second they need (or even want) a roof to make that happen.
Not to discount the naysayers—Montreal Expo founder Charles Bronfman among them—who are just trying to be real about all this.
Montreal has a cooler, wetter spring climate than all other MLB towns and the cold, rainy April wreaking havoc on Eastern Canada this spring will only fuel the skeptics raining on any parade of Les Expos Nos Amours part les numero deux.
But solving the cold weather problem of playing ball so early in the spring is one for the Commissioner’s Office to fix, not the city of Montreal nor the group of investors leading the charge to bring baseball back to La Belle Province.
As a matter of fact, paranoia over climate-control is partly to blame for why Montreal lost its team in the first place.
It’s not that complicated, really.
Surely a bright, articulate lawyer such as MLB Commish Rob Manfred earning millions from his bosses/team owners could figure this one out.
But he’s a busy guy so just to help him out, I’ll offer this solution up free of charge:
There are currently 30 teams in Major League Baseball, 14 of which play in either the climate-controlled confines of a roofed stadium or a year-round warm-weather locale. The remaining 16 franchises have the problem of how to sell tickets in the cold, wet, and sometimes downright wintry April weather.
If the Oakland Athletics or Tampa Bay Rays turn into the Montreal Expos, the imbalance grows a bit wider.
You are never going to completely avoid having the cold weather teams play home games in April entirely, but it could easily be minimized by having all but a few of those squads start the season with a 10-game road-trip.
Then do a couple of series’ at home with all day games under the sun, and then finish the first month of the season with another 10-game road trip.
In fact, you could even schedule some doubleheaders just to assist with this effort and give everyone an extra day or two off.
Balance the schedule out for everybody in May, and from there you gradually unbalance home games in the other direction to even things out through June, July, August, and September.
Having once traveled to a Toronto Blue Jays series in Miami during June, I learned first-hand how unforgiving the South Florida heat and humidity is during hurricane season.
I had to take my jacket everywhere for the pockets of rain we would get but could barely put it on given the 40 degree Celsius heat suffocating even the state-of-the-art air-conditioned Marlins Park.
It was awful. And it was a reminder that Canada is much better suited to summer baseball than the deep south.
The Houston Astros went roughly a decade without opening the roof at Minute Maid Park during August, just to escape the sweltering heat.
Point being, one month of chilly weather at the start does not a baseball season make.
A quick google search will indicate the average daytime temperature in Montreal throughout the month of April is only about 5 degrees Celsius cooler than Minnesota, Detroit or Cleveland.
Are we seriously going to keep baseball out Montreal over THAT?
It’s been more than half a century since Montreal was first awarded its baseball dream of the Expos at the 1967 winter meetings in Mexico City.
Part of the deal was Montreal would have a covered stadium by 1972. That never happened. Many of then-Mayor Jean Drapeau’s ideas never quite worked out the way he drew them up.
It would take the summer Olympics of 1976 to bring us all the over-sized toilet that would flush Montreal’s tax-base down the drain for decades and ultimately help murder their beloved Expos.
It was the gloomy, stale air under the orange (and later blue) top of Olympic Stadium that robbed baseball fans of their summer nights and the Expos of their once halcyon fan base by the end of the 1980’s.
There’s no bigger turnoff to the buying public than paying your hard-earned money to spend a beautiful summer day or night indoors.
The average daytime high temperature in Minneapolis, home of the Minnesota Twins, isn’t much warmer than Montreal in the month April.
And even the folks of the great state of Minnesota—who just lived through a blizzard last week—ultimately decided once and for all they were done with indoor baseball and better off dealing with a few cold-weather games early in the season. They were blowing hundreds of millions of dollars to put on a ceiling no-one really seemed to want anyway.
An Ernst and Young feasibility study back in 2013 pegged the cost of baseball’s return to Montreal at just over one billion “with a b” dollars.
That’s an awful lot of scratch for the private sector to come up within one of the highest tax jurisdictions in North America.
And while there’s no question those figures will have jumped significantly in the 5 years since that estimate was reached, enthusiasm for Montreal’s baseball project remains.
The best visuals of the city’s baseball history were photographed in the lidless venues of Jarry Park and before that, the home of the legendary Montreal Royals, Delorimier Downs.
Still many unknowns about how far this movement will go such as an available franchise, the blessing of MLB, as well as local corporate and government support.
There are plenty of things this project of bringing back the Expos still needs.
A roof, however, isn’t one of them.
(Lead Photo by ballparksofbaseball.com)