Menard Keeps Ball Rolling

By Stephanie Myles

They all shared the same private box last night, but Jacques Menard and Raymond Bachand were front and centre, while Claude Brochu was in the back row.

Brochu's bodyguards were in evidence last night, as were the signs and placards emblazoned with personal messages to the team's president and general partner, advising him of suggested alternate destinations. But the cameras and microphones were all on Menard, who leads the effort to oust Brochu and build a new downtown stadium.

Brochu arrived an hour before the game and made his way to the box, trailed by TV cameras. Menard wanted to go into the clubhouse and wish the players good luck before the game, but said a previous engagement made him run late.

Anything new? "Little is new, mostly because I can't give you precise details about the negotations that are currently going on," Menard said. "But I can tell you that since the meeting we had in Quebec City, we have advanced things. We have met with (Quebec) high-level officials. We have met with Ottawa, specifically with Canada Lands (the crown corporation that owns the land on which Menard's group wants to build the new stadium).

"We have also tested certain things in the market, to see how we can proceed with financing models for the Expos," he added.

What Menard hopes to do is continue on all fronts over the next few weeks, and announce what progress has been made sometime at the beginning of May.

"I've noticed one thing, and that is that Major League Baseball is letting us work. I haven't, and my colleagues haven't, felt any pressure from them over the last few days," he said.

Menard hopes that in the next few days - by the end of next week at the latest - that baseball will allow Jeffrey Loria, the main investor who will come on board with the new regime, to come to Montreal and work on the project alongside the current owners.

The chairman is in contact with Loria every day or two to keep him informed.

"Yogi Berra said it's never over until it's over. When it comes to negotiations, we know when it begins, but never when it ends," Menard said. "I've seen too much in my life to pretend to be able to tell you that everything is consummated until the final "I" is dotted and the last "T" is crossed."

Will last night's crowd be a factor in convincing baseball of the viability of the game in Montreal? Menard is convinced it will. "To show it like they did today - as much to the people in New York as to the other people who are, for whatever reason, detractors - I think this evidence is very important, especially in light of the (poor) crowds in Washington in the last few weeks."

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