Article by Adam Lague
On February 13th, Montreal baseball fans were delighted with several reports detailing Stephen Bronfman and Pierre Boivin’s new ties to a piece of land near downtown Montreal. Those that have followed the Montreal baseball efforts closely have heard of Peel Basin before — it was cited by former mayor Denis Coderre as a possible site for a future downtown ballpark as early as 2015. So what exactly happened that led to the February 13th reports, and what does it mean for the possible return of Expos baseball?
At some point following Coderre’s 2015 mention, the group of businessmen trying to bring baseball back to Montreal decided on Peel Basin as the best option for a new ballpark. But this piece of land is currently owned by Canada Lands Company, a federally-operated corporation. If the Baseball Businessman are going to acquire it, they’re going to need help. Now, rewind to February 13th: That’s when it was announced that Boivin — yes, the former Montreal Canadiens President — had registered himself and Bronfman to the Quebec Lobbyists Registry, officially seeking the province’s aid in purchasing the land. Boivin is Bronfman’s right-hand man at Bronfman’s private investment firm, Claridge Inc., and part of the larger group of businessmen backing the efforts to bring the team back.
Where is Peel Basin?
The Peel Basin is situated at the bottom of Peel Street on the Lachine Canal, between the Bonaventure Expressway to the east and Wellington Street to the west. On the Basin’s north side, de la Commune St W leads into commercial Griffintown where you’ll find grocery stores, hotels, restaurants, and of course, condos. Montreal’s iconic Farine Five Roses sign is clearly visible from here.
To the south of the canal, on the Pointe-Saint-Charles side, you’ll find more expansive, undeveloped land. This is the plot owned by Canada Lands Company, where construction is already underway to build a new underground Réseau Express Métropolitain (REM) station. The land, according to CTV Montreal, is worth $50 million, and Marc Griffin of RDS says the Bronfman group seeks to own 900,000 square feet. Now that we have confirmation of the site Bronfman’s group is targeting, we can all begin to envision a modern, open-air ballpark by the water for the second coming of Nos Amours.
What’s On Deck
A potential acquisition of land at Peel Basin doesn’t do anything to expedite the tenuous stadium situations in Oakland and Tampa Bay that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has repeatedly said must be regulated before any thoughts of expansion or relocation can come to fruition. But it is one more important step toward solidifying Montreal as a market that is ready to welcome a team. While Bronfman has assured fans Montreal will not pull a Quebec City — build a venue before being promised a team, as QC did in building the NHL-ready Centre Vidéotron — he has made it clear that MLB needs to see a firm plan for a new stadium before committing to the city. Snatching up some land — at a great location, mind you — is a signal to the league that the wheels are very much in motion.
“At the end of day we don’t control this process,” Bronfman told CBC Montreal’s Daybreak. “We’re doing everything in our power to get it done. I feel it’s looking pretty good.”