Will Ottawa go CanAM for 2011?

Quebec's Troy Cate pitches to Pittsfield's Danny Bomback in Ottawa on Saturday

I was planning this post for quite a bit. However, just what I was all set to go, everything changed. Our fellow fan blog, Around the IBL, came out with this post. It was regarding the Ottawa Fat Cats, talking about how their ownership group was ready to pull the plug on the the entire Fat Cats Organization, because it wasn’t financially viable to keep it afloat.

Now, this post is entirely rumor-based and many Fat Cats fans–including Litter Box reader, Pierre–still figure that Ottawa will be back for another season. The jury is still out for me, though. My reasoning being this:

Ottawa’s City Council granted the OSG Group the one-year lease on the Stadium on one condition. There had to be baseball played there. OSG’s goal was to get a Pro Team to play here in Ottawa, however they didn’t manage to get that opportunity, as the CanAM League went to Pittsfield instead(where they’re enjoying a stunning average attendance of 893), and the GBL… well, were they ever serious about that anyways?

Since that all fell through, we got the Fat Cats. Now, both I and many others in the Ottawa Baseball World are very satisfied with the Fat Cats. The only problem is how short the IBL season is, which is where Pro Baseball comes in.

OSG’s main target was Pro Ball in the first place, and with the recent CanAM League Regular Season games played at Ottawa Stadium, the water is starting to leak through the cracks. However, this is why I am taking the recent rumors about the Fat Cats’ demise so seriously. My thinking is that when CanAM comes into Ottawa, IBL goes out.

Not being financially viable isn’t what it’s all about. If these rumors are true, I think that this may be a case of the OSG simple wanting a Pro Baseball team here. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, it’s a good thing to bring the Pros back in here, but couldn’t the IBL and the CanAM League coexist?

I’m absolutely sure that they could for at least a few years, but if they couldn’t, I have a solution.

Since the IBL’s plans are to extend to the East, the Hotel Expenses for visiting teams that are currently on the Fat Cats’ tab should eventually disappear in 3 or 4 years when teams like Peterborough or Valleyfield start popping up, unless the new Northern teams will be required to find a Concierge that’s ready for a challenge as well.

However, assuming that the existing teams will be told to handle the expenses themselves, then a whole lot of pressure would be lifted off of the Fat Cats’ Shoulders. They won’t need the ticket and sales revenue that they currently need, and will be allowed to move into a smaller playing field, like Heritage Park (with some nice, new Bleachers installed).

Onto the Possibility of Pro Ball returning.

Will we see it next year? I certainly think that it’s more than possible. Miles Wolff of the CanAM League has always been interested in Canada, and since Montreal doesn’t have a suitable stadium for the CanAM League, the 2 options for Wolff are Trois Rivieres, Quebec; and Ottawa.

Trois Rivieres has a rich baseball history, and already seems to have a suitable stadium, Stade Fernand-Bedard. It is basically a carbon copy of the Stadium that the Quebec Capitales play in. The only downside to Trois Rivieres as an Indy Baseball Market, is the fact they they were part of the Canadian Baseball League in 2003.

Most know that the CBL was a complete disaster, and that they didn’t even get to finish their first season, right? Well, TR was the ugly duckling of the league. Their team, the Saints, averaged a total of 163 people per game. No typo, folks. They make the Pittsfield Colonials look like the New York Yankees.

This is where the 613 may come in and take the Prize. Miles Wolff already has always wanted the league to come back after the Rapidz’ demise, once they found suitable ownership. Ramapo, New York is said to be the 7th member of the league next season, and Ottawa the 8th. Will it happen? If so, will the Fat Cats still have a home here? We’ll have to wait and see.

My god, I feel like a Phoenix Coyotes fan.

    • Pierre
    • July 22nd, 2010

    Given the structure of the IBL (Ottawa playing only weekend games), yes, it and a Can-Am team, heck even a GBL or minor league team such as one in the NY-Penn league (but that won’t happen) can co-exist. It would mean guaranteed baseball every weekend two months straight, May to mid-July. The Fat Cats making the playoffs could extend that more than a month if they went far enough.

    I don’t yet buy this Eastern division of the IBL. Besides, Peterborough is still almost four hours away. Now teams in Kingston, Cornwall, Brockville, the Smiths Falls and Perth area would make more sense and more manageable.

    The Fat Cats can’t wait that long anyway. One bad year at the gate would be disastrous. That’s why they need a pro team to lighten the burden and I believe that’s OSG’s plan.

    The CBL was mismanaged so don’t go by what happened in 2003. Look at the game they played there last year: 3000 attendance, Quebec vs Defenders (coincidentally, now the Colonials).

  1. I had some free time, so I decided to take a look and see which eastern towns would have an IBL suitable field. I’ve got some pictures as well.

    Brockville: http://img805.imageshack.us/i/brockvillepossible.jpg/

    The one above would require a few changes – like for example, a grass infield. Looking at Google Earth, it looks like the field dimensions may be a little bit off, but there is just Forrest behind the park itself, so that problem could be taken care of easily.

    Cornwall: “Black Sox Field” http://img832.imageshack.us/i/cornwallpossible.jpg/

    There are 2 regulation fields that are pretty much side-by-side in Cornwall, just near their Marina. I chose this one, because it looked like the dimensions were the slightest bit bigger. As you could tell by the field itself, it doesn’t look like much changes would be needed to house a team.

    That’s really all that I found in Ontario, surprisingly. The Smiths Falls-Perth area didn’t have anything that was caught my eye, and I was somewhat disappointed by that, since there is a big gap in between Barrie and Ottawa that I’d like to fill. Maybe Peterborough, Huntsville or Parry Sound would be suitable instead, but I didn’t check those places in depth, really.

    Onto Quebec..

    Salaberry-de-Valleyfield: http://img571.imageshack.us/i/valleyfieldpossible.jpg/

    Couldn’t get a better shot of this Field, but as you can see, it’s pretty obvious that another team plays there, as with Black Sox Field in Cornwall. However, like at Ottawa Stadium next year, that shouldn’t matter. This park looks well maintained, and has enough seating to host an IBL Franchise. Huge possibility here… only issue is distance from other teams.

    This next location may be stretching it, but…

    LaSalle: “Stade Eloi-Viau” http://img12.imageshack.us/i/lasallepossible.jpg/

    I know that Montreal is 8-9 hours away from most teams, but hear me out. This could be a great opportunity for the IBL. See that Grandstand on the left? There’s another one on the other side as well. This stadium looks like it could fit AT LEAST 1,000 People, and considering the huge city that it would serve, with right marketing this team could be a hit.

    So, Readers, discuss the opportunities.

    • Robin Collins
    • July 26th, 2010

    Ottawa can’t handle two teams. If there’s a Can-Am team in town, nobody will go see the Fat Cats. Is there sufficient fan support for Can-Am ball? I’d go, but may a dozen games a year. ICL ball is “better than nothing” — I don’t want to sound disingenuous here, but higher level play is inherently more fun to watch. We need to find the level of ball that Ottawans are willing to come out to and watch, and support financially, consistently.

      • Robin Collins
      • July 26th, 2010

      in the above, make that “but maybe a dozen games a year”…

    • Thanks for the comment, Robin… but I’ve gotta disagree with you there. See, Ottawans HAVE been supporting IBL ball. Better than they did with the pros, actually. The caliber of the IBL isn’t that bad either, and if both the new pro team, and the Fat Cats are marketed to the same extent, they could coexist.

      Ottawa could support 2 teams, especially since the Fat Cats wouldn’t really need that much support to stay afloat if a pro team came in, since both teams would be under the same owners.

        • Robin Collins
        • July 27th, 2010

        Ottawans have supported the Fat Cats (to an extent) while there was no CanAm baseball to attend. A new, last place team is hard to market in any case. I interpret current support for the FC (although I may be wrong) as believing some baseball is better than no baseball. Ottawa is fickle.

        If the Fat Cats don’t need a large crowd (and they won’t get it competing against a second team) they might be better off moving west.

      • The Cats don’t need large crowds, but I still think that they’ll get them.

        Honestly, I think that if it’s baseball, Ottawa is happy. The Rapidz had better attendance then the Lynx did in their final years, the Fat Cats had better support than the Rapidz did, even though the caliber had gotten worse and worse with each team that comes around, but Ottawa doesn’t care. The new pro team may indeed draw better than the FCs, but they definitely won’t drive them out of town. That’s my opinion, anyways.

    • Pierre
    • July 29th, 2010

    > I’d go, but may a dozen games a year.

    I think a team would take this. Just need others like you. Given what I’ve seen the last few years, I think there is enough support for a return of the Can-Am.

    Michael (Knox3), the picture links you provided make me think there is no adequate venue in those towns, even for the IBL. At least not in their present state as I see them. Also, why would the IBL want to establish itself in Quebec? The new IBL commish may have some grandiose ideas but I doubt this expansion will come to fruition any time soon.

    > The caliber of the IBL isn’t that bad either

    No comment, cough, cough.

    > the caliber had gotten worse and worse with each team that comes around, but Ottawa doesn’t care.

    As a true-blue baseball fan, I care. I do think however that you’re right: the typical Ottawan doesn’t. In fact, they likely can’t tell the difference or doesn’t know any better. They want entertainment.

    Agree. A pro team will likely draw better (it should) but my opinion is that the Fat Cats can’t stay long-term and use the stadium all by themselves. They need a pro team and the only option is the Can-Am.

    • Robin Collins
    • July 29th, 2010

    And I think the other point we shouldn’t forget is that while Ottawans would prefer to see Can-Am ball over ICL ball, and presumably Triple A over Can-Am, there remains the question of what Ottawa can realistically sustain. We have history on this, and it ain’t all good.

    The best thing about Can-Am is that it is a longer season than ICL, but not hampered by the April-May games of Triple A. That middle ground seems about perfect to me. We still need a minimum number of fans (average 2500+ per game, let’s say) to keep Can-Am going. We MIGHT be able to do that, but I’d hate to be desperately trying to find fans every year for fear of losing the team. Marketing it right is a big factor, and having an Ottawa-Montreal-Quebec rivalry would be a lot of fun to watch.

    I’d disagree though that folks can’t tell the difference between skill levels of play. There are good players on every team, but you’re not going to be able to keep the most proficient players if you pay them a couple hundred dollars a month, and they have to keep down a job the rest of the week.

  2. Robin Collins :

    We still need a minimum number of fans (average 2500+ per game, let’s say) to keep Can-Am going. We MIGHT be able to do that, but I’d hate to be desperately trying to find fans every year for fear of losing the team.

    Not exactly. 2500 would put us in 2nd in CanAM League attendance right now… in fact, the Rapidz brought in a good amount of fans in their first year. They didn’t go down from financial woes.

    Hey, even look at Pittsfield. Their current average is under 1,000 if you can believe that, however I don’t think we’ll be seeing them drift off any time soon. Ottawa CanAM would be just fine with the kind of support the Fat Cats are getting, IMO.

    I’d set the bar at around 1,500. Over that, and we should be good.

    • Robin Collins
    • July 29th, 2010

    I don’t think 1,500 was the number Miles Wolff (CanAm commish) was giving. He said he felt the break even number for a Can-Am team was 2,500 fans on average per game.

    • Pierre
    • July 29th, 2010

    I don’t know what Miles said, if anything, about a break-even number. If it’s 2500, then only one team – Quebec – is making money this year and Brockton did last year. That would not be good news for the league, let alone Ottawa. In 2008 however, all but two teams failed to reach the 2000 plateau. Same story for previous years. Last year and this year (so far) are the outliers, maybe this thing called a recession has an effect.

    I think the break-even for the Fat Cats was about 1200 but 1500 is more realistic. Given similar expenses for a Can-Am team (less paying for the visiting team’s hotel and transport, plus higher player salaries and other expenses), I figure the break-even to be close to 2000. I think that’s the number waved around as I recall with the Rapidz, going as low as 1800.

    The Lynx (from mid-May), Rapidz and Fat Cats have shown they can draw about 2300 and that’s with minimal marketing. Add to that other events as the OSG wants to do, you have a viable business not to mention it makes use of the stadium.

    All we need now is for city council to lease the stadium to the group (finalize by November or earlier, not February), get a Can-Am team in, concerts as was planned, keep the Fat Cats, maybe have a women’s semi-pro team as was planned, let local teams use the stadium (it is already), maybe even let an ultimate frisbee league use it too and continue with the summer baseball camps.

    • Phil
    • October 6th, 2010


    For Ottawa the break even point is 2500. The number may be different based on the market as expenses and sponsorship will be different as well.

    As far as Eastern Ontario parks that can be used. Riverside Park in Ptbo, and McGiffin Park in Kingston.

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