Chamber of Commerce supporting effort to bring a basketball team to Montreal
Could Montreal get a professional basketball team before it gets its baseball team back?
The Montreal Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce is getting involved with a project seeking to get an NBA team in the city. They're lending support to an outside group led by Michael Fortier, a former federal cabinet minister who is known for having negotiated the current agreement with Formula 1 underpinning Montreal's annual Grand Prix.
Fortier has been leading the charge to bring basketball to Montreal for three years. That's when he first met with the NBA's commissioner, Adam Silver. Silver has never specifically mentioned Montreal as a future city to get an NBA team, but he has said that the league will "inevitably" be expanding in the future.
Seattle, a city of around Montreal's size in both economic and population terms, is angling to get an expansion team in the NBA's western conference. If the league plans to expand proportionally, it would need to add a new team in the east, which Montreal could be in the running for. Other eastern cities that could be interested in a team include Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Louisville, Kentucky. Both of those cities are smaller than Montreal.
The Chamber of Commerce continues to devote the vast majority of its sports-related resources to bringing the Expos back to the city, having spent $200,000 to fund an Ernst & Young study into professional baseball's economic impact in the city a few years ago. The chamber's President and CEO Michel Leblanc told La Presse in an interview this morning that it would be "premature" to speculate about Montreal actually seeing professional basketball arrive in the city anytime soon.
Montreal may not have an existing basketball fan-base in the same way it does for baseball, but it does already have a stadium. The Bell Centre has hosted exhibition games between the Toronto Raptors and other NBA teams in the past and is up to the league's standards to host games.