Baseball Okays Expos Business Plan: Menard

By Stephanie Myles

Word was expected out of baseball commissioner Bud Selig's office yesterday about Major League Baseball's approval of the business plan that will allow the Expos to survive in Montreal.

Approval is certainly not implementation, nor does it guarantee success. But while that official word hadn't arrived yesterday, Expos chairman Jacques Menard, on radio station CKAC's sports phone-in show early yesterday evening, pretty much confirmed that baseball's approval was won at a meeting two weeks ago.

"I have every reason to believe that baseball is satisfied that the project is viable, that we know what we're doing. Let's not be naive; surprises could still happen. But we've never been so near, so close to the goal," Menard said. "I have the feeling it's going to work. We have never had as much support from Major League Baseball as we have now."

Added to the discussion last week that the Claude Brochu-less ownership group was contemplating a purchase of the land south of the Molson Centre on which the proposed downtown stadium would be built, instead of negotiating a 99-year lease - something that would involve an estimated investment of $16-18 million - the news seems positive, if not definitive.

A published report during the weekend also stated that the Axor construction firm had won the bidding to build the proposed stadium. Axor built du Maurier Stadium, site of the just-completed men's tennis tournament, on time and on budget.

Menard also said yesterday that his group has managed to raise two-thirds of the $75 million in local investment they are looking for, to complement the approximately $75 million to be invested by New York art dealer Jeffrey Loria.

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