Expos Reveil Plans for New Ballpark

Associated Press

MONTREAL (AP) The Montreal Expos unveiled plans for their new home Tuesday. Now they have to figure out what to call it and how to pay for it.

"The idea was to create something new,'' Expos owner Jeffrey Loria said of the three-tiered, steel-framed structure the team plans to build downtown. "The old-style ball park is everywhere. It's important to start the new millennium with something new.''

Loria said construction needs to begin this spring for the facility to open in 2002.

The Expos' previous owners had planned a more expensive, brick-clad stadium to be called Labatt Park, with the brewery contributing $66 million for name rights and the lead sponsorship role over 20 years.

Loria said he is negotiating with the brewery to get more for the naming rights.

"We're out to make baseball viable and naming rights is an important part of building the facility,'' said Loria, an art dealer from New York. "We'll see how the negotiations go. I feel (Labatt's) are terrific people but right now, until there's a final determination, we'll call it the Expos downtown stadium.''

The Expos also need to complete their team of local investors and relaunch a seat-license program. Between them, investors and seat buyers are to contribute $66 million.

Much of the rest is to be derived from interest on a $66 million loan from the provincial government, whose contribution is to come from funds budgeted for tourism promotion.

Loria denied reports that the Canada Lands Corp., a federal government agency, would lease the Expos the land for a nominal fee.

The ballpark would have 36,287 regular seats, plus another 257 "exclusive club'' seats at field level behind home plate. A total of 66 luxury boxes would be built, including two at dugout level.

The Expos hope to later add another 3,000 seats in a second tier to the left-field bleachers.

The plan includes a special field-level section of the bleachers called Guerrero's Gang, after star right fielder Vladimir Guerrero.

Only the top rows of the third tier will be covered. Otherwise, the natural-grass field and seats will be open to Montreal's often chilly, wet weather in April and in the fall.
"New York fans don't mind wearing parkas to watch the Yankees in the World Series,'' Loria said.

Field dimensions would be 325 feet to left field, 400 feet to center and 330 to right, with an eight-foot fence.

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