Land developer, Montreal baseball investors reach deal on potential stadium site

MONTREAL — Stephen Bronfman-owned Claridge Investments and real estate development firm Devimco have reached an agreement to develop a plot of land for sale known as the Peel Basin, where a group committed to bringing Major League Baseball back to Montreal would like to build a new stadium.

Bronfman announced the deal at a gathering Tuesday night to honour his father, former Montreal Expos owner Charles Bronfman, as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Montreal Expos’ first season.

Stephen Bronfman, who heads a group of investors interested in bringing baseball back to Montreal, said Devimco would be responsible for the purchase of the land and would partner with his firm to develop the 950,000-square-foot site.

It wasn’t clear how long completing the purchase would take.

Bronfman said he hopes to make an announcement in the summer, but he isn’t too hung up on dates.

“We’ve moved steadily along with our development project for the site,” Bronfman said. “We’re going day-by-day.”

He said planning is underway but certain details could not be divulged.

“When the time is right, we’ll be announcing it step by step,” Bronfman said.

Not much has changed on the MLB front, but Bronfman said he isn’t worried about that either.

“I’m always positive,” he said. “It’s going slowly, but it’s going and that’s what is important.”

The younger Bronfman admitted he purposely doesn’t do a lot of press to avoid building up too much hype around baseball’s possible return.

“At the end of the day, I’m not controlling the agenda,” he said. “I’m trying my best to temper things, but with a positive temperament.”

Many former Expos greats including Steve Rogers, Bill Lee, Andre Dawson, Denis Boucher and Claude Raymond were on hand in Montreal’s Old Port Tuesday night to honour the elder Bronfman.

Charles Bronfman, 87, said he is convinced that his son’s project is sound and that a proper stadium is necessary for it to succeed. His advice to his son was to remain patient.

“Hang in there,” he said. “He’s done a hell of a good job. He’s got a lot of patience, played every card the right way.”

The elder Bronfman was asked about the level of interest in the 50th anniversary of MLB’s arrival in the city and recalled the days when Montreal was in love with baseball.

“There’s something about being major league, there’s a panache,” Charles Bronfman said. “I think everybody loved it — the team was exciting, and it was a lot of fun.”

He said while the Jarry Park experience really sold baseball, the Olympic Stadium experience a bit “iffy.”

“Unfortunately, we never made the World Series,” he added. “That’s my only regret by the way, not making the World Series.”

The Expos relocated to Washington, D.C., following the 2004 season.

Frederic Daigle, The Canadian Press

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