Montreal in no mood to fund ‘Devil Rays’ home


Tampa Bay Rays stadium update October 2021 Image: Dirk Shadd (Tampa Bay Times)

A new billboard off of a Tampa (US) freeway sends a crisp and clear message to fans of the American professional baseball team Tampa Bay Rays: Montreal isn’t going to pay for their stadium.

The ‘Newsweek’ stated that the billboard was recently installed, and every minute the words flash across the digital screen, ‘Dear Rays, Montreal won’t pay for your new stadium. Sincerely, Taxpayers.’

The Tampa Bay Rays are an American professional baseball team based in St. Petersburg, Florida (US). The Rays compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the American League East division. Since its inception, the team’s home venue has been the Tropicana Field.

The 42,735-capacity Tropicana Field, also commonly known as ‘The Trop’, is a domed stadium located in St. Petersburg, Florida, United States, that has been the home of the Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball since the team’s inaugural season in 1998.

The Major League Baseball is a professional baseball organization and the oldest major professional sports league in the world. As of 2021, a total of 30 teams play in Major League Baseball – 15 teams in the National League and 15 in the American League – with 29 in the United States and 1 in Canada.

The ‘Newsweek’ further stated that the project was funded by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a non-profit dedicated to ensuring “low taxes, less waste and accountable Government”. The group reportedly has 235,000 members across Canada.

Tampa Bay has been looking for a new stadium for a number of years. The lease on their current ballpark, Tropicana Field, ends in 2027. The team has been searching for a replacement for the park, which is quite wanting in facilities and probably ranks right at the bottom of the heap in MLB, and has the smallest seating capacity of any MLB park.

One solution the team has been perusing is splitting time between playing in Tampa Bay and playing in Montreal (Canada), which the team has said would relieve significant financial pressure. It would also mark a return to baseball for Montreal, as their previous MLB team, the Montreal Expos, left in 2004 to become the Washington Nationals.

However, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says that while the Rays are welcome to play in Montreal, Quebecois taxpayers would not help them fund a new stadium.

Fumed Renaud Brossard, Head of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s Quebec area, “We’re not going to let [the Rays] use our wallets as an open bar. It is not for Quebec taxpayers to pay for a new stadium for a rich group of investors to enrich themselves with a sports team.”

It would appear from statistics that most Montrealers agree with Brossard. A March 2021 poll in the ‘Journal de Quebec’ mentioned that, “Sixty percent of citizens do not want the State to get involved financially in this project of several hundred million dollars, the objective of which is to bring back a professional baseball team.”

The poll had been in regards to a billionaire-led investment project to construct a new stadium in Montreal. The investors, known as the Montreal Baseball Group, have registered to receive a subsidy for the construction of a potential new ballpark.

While the former home of the Expos, Olympic Stadium, sits available for use, the park is often considered a white elephant, and has not hosted a permanent professional team since the Expos left. This is why Brossard believes investors are pushing for a new stadium.

The 66,308-capacity Olympic Stadium is a multipurpose stadium in Montreal, Canada, located at Olympic Park in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district of the City. Built in the mid-1970s as the main venue for the 1976 Summer Olympics, it is nicknamed ‘The Big O’, a reference to both its name and to the doughnut-shape of the permanent component of the stadium’s roof.

Brossard did not specify how much onus would be on the taxpayers if a new stadium were to be constructed. He, however, said that Quebec taxpayers were on average $ 50.00 in debt per capita.

If money was to become available for use, Brossard continued, he believes the funds should be put towards improving infrastructure and lowering the tax burden in Montreal.

The Mayor of Tampa, Jane Castor, shot back, saying in a statement that “The days of taxpayers footing the bill for sports stadiums are over, but we are keeping an open mind as we await more information from the Rays and we definitely want to keep the team in the region.”

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