Montreal to Get More Time to Keep Team

By Ronald Blum

BOSTON -- The Montreal Expos, averaging just 9,085 fans for home games, will be given more time to put together a new stadium financing plan and ownership group.
"We're giving all parties ample time to do the things that they need to do to make that an economically viable franchise," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said before Monday's All-Star workouts at Fenway Park. "You want to be fair and you want to bend over backwards to be fair."

The Expos and Selig have said repeatedly for more than a year the team can't survive in Olympic Stadium.

Neither Expos president Claude Brochu nor team chairman Jacques Menard has been able to raise sufficient financing for new ballpark, but baseball officials have said in recent weeks that they are more hopeful the team will be able to obtain some government financing.

"The Montreal situation is one I'm monitoring now on an almost daily basis," Selig said. "They appear to be somewhat optimistic that they're making progress."

Montreal's crowd of 15,201 for Sunday's first-half finale against Toronto was the fourth-highest of the season at Olympic Stadium. Before the weekend series against the Blue Jays, the Expos reached 10,000 at home just nine times in 44 home games.

"There's been a lot of negativism on a lot of sides there, and it's clearly affected their attendance," Selig said. "I don't think this year's attendance is really a crucial factor one way or another."

If a decision is made to allow Montreal to move, Washington and Charlotte, N.C., appear to be the top candidates. But Baltimore owner Peter Angelos would possibly block a Washington move and Charlotte hasn't shown a willingness to build a stadium.

Selig said it's too early to assess the Minnesota Twins' situation. St. Paul has expressed interest in constructing a ballpark.
"I want major league baseball to stay there," Selig said.

He also said he expects the proposed merger of the New York Yankees and the NBA's New Jersey Nets to come to a vote before the end of the year.

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