Should stadiums receive public funding?
The renovation has started a familiar debate over whether or not the costs of arenas and stadiums should be paid for by the public, giving the billionaire owners of teams a place to play on the taxpayers dollar. Despite my love of baseball, and my hope that the Expos will return to Montreal, I believe that stadiums should come at the cost of the team owner and not the taxpayer, unless the benefits should equal or outweigh the cost.
When former Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre was defeated in the recent Montreal municipal election, many sports fans said that the dream of baseball died with him. However, new Mayor Valerie Plante has said that she won’t use public money to finance a new stadium or team without a referendum. Even though Montrealers would likely vote against spending hundreds of millions of their tax dollars to bring a MLB team back, I think Plante has the right idea.
According to a 2013 study by the Montreal Baseball project, it would cost over a billion dollars for a baseball team to return, including the project quoting “while 33 per cent ($335 million)would come from government”. Even with the return of the Expos, and the jobs it would create, that is a very high price to pay. I would be alright with paying public money for a new stadium if the municipal government does hold a referendum and the majority votes vote yes. Even if a yes vote occurred, I would need to be convinced by the team’s ownership group that the benefits of a new stadium and team, (an increase in jobs, tourism, economic boom, etc), would be worth the costs.
As many die-hard Expos fans know, it wasn’t the lack of fan support that killed the Expos. The Olympic Stadium and poor ownership decisions were major factors contributing to the Expos departure after the 2004 season. My major concern as a fan is a repeat of those events.
I don’t want a new stadium to become a worn down eyesore like the Olympic stadium, but in the downtown core. I don’t want greedy owners to hold a team hostage, like Jeff Loria in the late 90s and early 2000s. I believe the Expos would have fan support even when they are bad, but I can’t say the same about ownership.
It may upset some baseball fans, but if it is revealed that the economic costs of MLB expansion would negatively affect Montreal, I would much rather see tax dollars go towards healthcare, schools, and more importantly, public transportation. Unless an ownership group can independently finance the project, or the people of Montreal can be convinced that a team would benefit the city, I’m afraid the Expos may remain a symbol of Montréals past.