Surveys Say People Would Come

Marketing surveys done in 1996 and 1997 which indicated that Montrealers would support a downtown baseball stadium were presented to reporters yesterday at the request of the Expos' shareholders committee.

The exercise was described as a bid to give "visibility and a certain credibility" to the notion that Montreal can support a Major League Baseball team, said Jean Saine, president of Saine Marketing.
"I think (the media) can convey that there is a potential in Montreal," Saine told reporters. "I think it's time to say it again."

None of the 14 members of the ownership consortium attended the press conference, called by the committee responsible for the Expos' new business plan, because of scheduling problems, reporters were told.

Expos chairman Jacques Menard is to meet with Premier Lucien Bouchard to discuss the business plan before month's end. Yesterday, Saine, whose firm did the surveys, said there was no link between the decision to present the repackaged surveys to the media and the upcoming meeting.

While the 1996 survey was made public, the 1997 one wasn't, although material contained in it was used by Expos president Claude Brochu to press his case for a downtown stadium, Saine said.

According to the 1997 survey, which sought the opinions of about 5,700 people, there are 750,000 baseball fans in the Montreal area.

And if a 35,000-seat baseball stadium were constructed in the downtown area, almost 16,000 season tickets could be sold, the survey found. Attendance figures for the new stadium could hit 2.6 million, generating revenues of about $60 million, the marketing agency concluded.

Baseball fans told the pollsters that they wanted an "intimate" stadium, similar to the one at Jarry Park, and a stadium that was open or had an umbrella roof for rainy days, Saine said.

Montreal, with a population base of 3.3 million, is the 15th largest baseball town in North America, Saine said. An executive of La Brasserie Labatt was on hand yesterday to reiterate his company's support for a downtown stadium.

"Eighteen months ago, we made a decision based on the facts (which included material contained in the surveys) and these facts are still accurate," said Louis Fortier, Labatt's vice-president of marketing.

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