VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Molson Breweries has purchased the Vancouver Canadians, hoping to lift the minor league baseball team into the major leagues by 1986, the company announced Wednesday.
'As sole owners, our company will inherit the professional baseball rights to the Vancouver area,' Norman Seagram, president of Molson Western Breweries Ltd. said. 'We will continue to lead the campaign to secure a major league franchise for British Columbia.'
The purchase gives Molson a foothold in the baseball-and-beer market. The company's two major competitors are already involved with major league franchises: Labatt Brewering Co. Ltd. hold a controlling interest in the Toronto Blue Jays and Carling O'Keefe Breweries of Canada Ltd. have a promotional contract with the Montreal Expos.
Senator Ray Perrault, who was appointed president of the Canadians late last year, said he attended the major league annual winter meeting in Nashville last December and Vancouver was among the top three contenders for an expansion team.
Perrault said Vancouver was competing with Denver and Tampa Bay for the league's next expansion, which he predicted would coincide with the city's world transportation fair in 1986.
'What a marvelous thing it would be to have major league baseball in Vancouver for Expo '86,' the senator said.
Molson purchased the team for an undisclosed price from local businessman Jim Pattison, who bought the Canadians from Nelson Skalbania two years ago.
Pattison said he no longer had time to give the Pacific Coast League team the committment needed to put it in the majors.
The Canadians, the Milwaukee Brewers AAA farm team, have been housed in the Nat Bailey Stadium for the past 23 years, but Molson hopes to eventually place them in the 60,000-seat domed B.C. Stadium.
The Blue Jays and the Brewers were scheduled to play three exhibition games in the stadium March 30, 31 and April 1. The Canadians have already sold 58,000 tickets for the games and hoped to improve that total to 90,000.