Baseball commissioner Bud Selig made a pitch for a new ballpark for the Montreal Expos to Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard on Monday, saying the team is doomed without a downtown stadium.
There was no immediate comment from Bouchard, but Expos president Claude Brochu said the premier did not budge from his insistence that no public funds would go into the $250 million project.
"It was an interesting meeting," Brochu said. "We'll see what progress we made. Mr. Bouchard kept to his position that there will be no public money, but we'll see."
The visit included a show of support by Selig for Brochu, whose leadership has been contested in recent weeks by members of the Expos' ownership group.
"I think it's unfair," said Selig, who counts Brochu as a key ally on baseball's executive committee. "I've seen it in other places and it's a side issue.
"You can replace him 15 times over and it won't make a difference because the new owners will face the same problems. You can't get someone with more experience than Mr. Brochu."
Last week, Selig wrote a letter to Expos chairman Jacques Menard, who has proposed alternate financing schemes, telling him to butt out of the ballpark debate.
The ownership group is to meet Wednesday to decide the project's future.
The original plan favored by Brochu called for $100 million to be raised through the sale of 18,000 seat licenses and 60 corporate boxes. The remaining $150 million would come mainly from the federal and provincial governments.
The team is expected to be sold and moved if a new stadium is not built to replace Olympic Stadium, where the Expos had the lowest attendance in major league baseball last season, 914,000.
"We haven't lost a franchise in 27 years, but as I've said, I won't consign a team to bankruptcy," said Selig, adding that most teams in rival cities had new stadiums built with public funds. "In his day and age, it's impossible to survive as an economically viable franchise without a new stadium."
Brouchard, who is expected to call an election this fall, has not ruled out that provincial government investment agencies may decide to put money into the stadium.
The federal government has been cool to any contribution aside from selling the downtown building site for one dollar.
The project has been criticized because the owners are not risking their own money.
Menard last week suggested the owners dilute their holdings in the team and put some of the new investment money into the stadium.
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