Stadium Plan has Some Changes

By Stephanie Myles/ The Gazette

Despite the fact he was standing without an overcoat on the steps of the Mount Royal Club on Sherbrooke St. on a chilly late afternoon yesterday, Expos chairman Jacques Menard took the time to shed some light on a number of different aspects of the Expos' fight for survival yesterday.
- The Stadium: For the last six or seven weeks, the COPIM group and project manager Vianney Belanger have been working on a radical re-design of the stadium. More work remains, including analysis of whether money can be saved by building a stadium that will have some movable seats. But as far as Menard is concerned, the price tag will remain at approximately $200 million.
"It's a bit different than (the original) 35,000 (seats), but I don't think it'll be a mammoth difference. It will be a fairly intimate stadium, and fairly small by the criteria we generally see in major- league baseball," Menard said. "We will build the stadium, but we don't want to build a stadium that seems inadequate, that we'll be ashamed of, or that won't age well."

The engineers and designers have already visited six or seven of the new wave of baseball stadiums over the last couple of months, and have several other visits planned over the next few weeks. A presentation of progress on that front was made to the investors yesterday.
"The time being invested is being invested well, based on what was presented to us (yesterday). I think we'll be able to have a stadium that will make people jealous. I've seen some that cost a lot more that are not as nice as the one we're working on now," Menard said.

Without going into details in an area he hasn't been intimately involved in, he spoke of a building that will be uniquely Montreal, that will have "du chien." Loosely translated, that means a little sass and pizazz.
- David Samson: Jeffrey Loria's stepson also attended the meeting of the Expos' shareholders yesterday. While Loria will make numerous visits to Montreal if his takeover of controlling interest in the team is accepted by baseball, it is Samson who will move to Montreal with his family, as an agent of the new general partner.
- Local Leadership: While Brochu was both president of the team and general partner (the control person in the eyes of Major League Baseball) Menard said a local senior executive will likely be hired to take on the role of president - or some similar title. Menard didn't elaborate, but given the demands of this particular market, that person will undoubtedly be francophone, or at the very least fluently bilingual.
- Claude Brochu: Brochu spent approximately 35 minutes addressing the group - a cordial meeting, Menard said. Brochu usually draws up the financial picture at this time of the year, with the team's fiscal year ending on Oct. 31. This time, though, the projections for the next fiscal year were not discussed - for obvious reasons.

The team's losses, earlier reported to be in the neighbourhood of $12 million, will be less than expected because of an unexpected but welcome surplus of revenue from baseball's central fund - to the tune of several million dollars, Menard said. That fund is made up of revenues from licensing and national television contracts, and distributed to all major-league teams.
The team met its expenses last year. This year, with the soft costs involved in developing the stadium project being absorbed by the club (legal fees, architects, engineers and consultants), there is a substantial loss.
The City of Montreal: The biggest injection of capital (from both sides) is conditional on being able to proceed with the stadium project. But Menard said there are a number of factors out of the group's control, zoning and environmental issues among them. "So far, the city has been a good team player, has collaborated well with us. We hope there will be a fast track with the city," Menard said.
As recently as last Thursday and Friday, representatives of the group met with the city, more about the urban integration aspect of the stadium than its architecture.
Stephen Bronfman: His investment will certainly be substantial (some reports have it pegged at least $10 million, perhaps more). But more than that, Menard said, he has helped the group tremendously in the evolution of their quest up until now. Menard's hope was that Bronfman would continue to assist in the future. "He's a young man who really loves baseball, and who above all loves Montreal," Menard said. "We'll see as things progress what kind of role he'll play. Let's wait until the end of October."

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