Liberals say talk of provincial stake in Montreal stadium project is premature

MONTREAL — The Quebec government says it’s premature to be talking about what type of role the province might play in the construction of any new baseball stadium in Montreal.

Economy Minister Jacques Daoust trod cautiously Friday, one day after a meeting between Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre in New York City.

While describing the Coderre-Manfred meeting as positive and saying he could envision the return of MLB, Daoust would not commit to any hard numbers with regard to Quebec investment in times of budget cuts.

No formal requests have been made, but Daoust reminded reporters the government would be a partner in any such project and not a provider of cash.

Manfred has previously said a proper baseball stadium is one of the criteria Montreal would have to meet to get a franchise.

During their Thursday meeting, Coderre said he was interested in Montreal hosting three or four regular-season games in 2016, which he said Manfred appeared open to.

The city has hosted four pre-season MLB games in the past two years, drawing more than 193,000 fans.

Montreal has been without professional baseball since the Expos left after the 2004 season.

A feasibility study in 2013 on the possibility of baseball returning to Montreal evaluated the total cost at $1.025 billion.

At the time, the Canadian dollar was at par with the U.S. dollar, while it is currently hovering around 80 cents US.

Coderre has said the stadium is not a priority for this year.

For his part, Premier Philippe Couillard told reporters no public money is earmarked for a stadium right now.

“People love baseball in Montreal, that’s something that is well known,” Couillard said in Rome on the last day of a trip to France and Italy. “But it’s necessary for the private sector to play its part too.”

Julien Arsenault, The Canadian Press