The Fat Cats could be in trouble

Ottawa Stadium is set to undergo a $10 Million renovation for the new Ottawa AA team

It seems like there is a possibility that the Ottawa Fat Cats will not be playing out of Ottawa Stadium next season.

As many of you may or may not know, the Fat Cats lease on the Stadium is up next month. With the new AA team moving in and the Stadium needing more than $10 million dollars in renovations, the city staff are recommending that the city does not renew their lease with the Fat Cats for 2012, so that the renovations can start immediately.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a full supporter of the renovation in general and other fans should be as well, but I think that they can definitely work around the summer. Why can’t the renos start after the season?

It doesn’t seem like the Fat Cats are too phased about the issue. Team president Brian Carolan says that the city told OSG that the Fat Cats could have the stadium to themselves (besides the fun fair… *gag*) for 2012, and that the city would make a renovation schedule to work around the FC home dates. Since this is what they were told, that’s how OSG is approaching the ordeal and that’s probably the best way that they could handle the situation.

However, this is where it gets interesting. Staff claims that no decision has been made on the Fat Cats and that if the recently released FC schedule gets in the way of the city’s renovation schedule, then it’s bye-bye Ottawa Fat Cats.

Someone here is lying, and I think it’s the city.

Certain councillors want pro baseball really badly, and construction on the stadium has to start almost immediately if the AA team is to be secured.

The city says that they do want the Fat Cats to keep on trucking, and I believe them, but the problem is that they want pro-ball more. To be honest, I can’t really blame them, but the whole situation is very unfair for the Fat Cats. If they do end up getting kicked out of the stadium, then the city is basically saying: “Alright! Thanks for making baseball interesting here again.. now GTFO.” As the media says, the Fat Cats are a victim of their own success.

No one really knows what will happen, but if we do end up getting kicked out of the stadium, the Fat Cats should not fold. As there are other ball fields (for example, Heritage Park)  that the FC’s could easily move into for one little season while things at Ottawa Stadium are taken care of.

Ottawa should come to a conclusion on this fairly soon, so stay tuned. Jon Willing and Neco Cockburn are the city hall reporters for the Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun respectively, and a little follow to them on Twitter should keep you in the loop.

    • Pierre
    • February 12th, 2012

    You really think the Fat Cats would do business if the lease for 2012 wasn’t secure? No.

    First, they had to confirm to the IBL they are coming back long ago. That means making sure they had a place to play. While the current one-year lease good until March 2012 is expiring, they long ago made sure they could play for the 2012 season. Why people make a big deal out of this and spell doom and gloom, I don’t know.

    As for the renovations, my understanding was $6 million, not ten. These won’t happen for a few months still. Apart from a few things, we don’t know what kind of renovation will happen. There should be a new scoreboard and that will cost close to a million. This shouldn’t affect the FC and can happen after the season. It probably can happen during the season as most work is outside. Yes, I believe there’s a possibility of having a new board this year. Wouldn’t it be great to see its debut in late June?

    Things like the restaurant, elevators, press box, that could all be done after the season, next winter even. Washrooms I believe need to be upgraded and that could also be done in September.

    If they want to remove seats, which I heard recently and makes sense to have only 7-8 thousands seats, I guess that can also be done after the season. In fact, it would have to be, otherwise yes, the Fat Cats would be forced to use another venue.

    The point is, a lot of those things won’t happen for many months yet. Sure, you want to start as soon as possible but there’s lots that can be done during the season. The Fat Cats only play 18 home games and most during weekends.

    • Hi Pierre… thanks for commenting

      My understanding (which comes from reading articles) is that the city pays $5.7 Million and Beacon Sports pays $5.5 Million, making the total cost actually around $11-12 Million.

      I find it weird that the Fat Cats would do business without knowing for sure that the lease is secure.. I think the city is flip-floping on the whole thing.

    • Pierre
    • February 12th, 2012

    My own recollection and understanding when the city said they wanted to find a professional tenant is that they figured there was a need for about $6 million in fixes. They wanted the team to pay for half. Unless something has changed, I think you are reading wrong and that it’s still about $6 million IN TOTAL which the team and city would split, not $6 each.

    • Steve
    • February 17th, 2012

    The figures for the renovations are closer to 11 million than 6. $5.5M paid by the team and another 5.7 from the City. The City has legitimate concerns with respect to the FC and their schedule; the Eastern Leagues wants to see a renovation schedule in place and it sounds as if franchise approval is predicated upon their approval of it (among other things). These are substantial renovations and while I’m sure the City would love to take the $108K from the FC if they could, they’re not going to risk losing AA ball in 2013. I don’t see anything sinister here – if you’re the City, how do you make wholesale “lifecycle improvements” to systems in the Stadium with tenants in the offices, teams in the locker rooms and literally thousands of people walking through a construction site? You can’t.

    • Pierre
    • February 17th, 2012

    Of course there are some concerns. But it largely depends on what type of construction are being planned. Having the Fat Cats front office there (just a few people in a small part of the stadium) may be feasible until said offices are being renovated, if that’s even in the plan. I think the large part of the work is likely structural (ie, the cement holding the place together) but I’m no construction expert.

    There is talk I read yesterday of installing artificial turf (noooooo!). Many things can be started after the season I’m sure and done through the winter, especially inside stuff. Don’t forget that by the first week of September, the Fat Cats season will be over, and that assumes they go deep into the playoffs like last year.

    The quoted figure is $5.7 million for upgrades. And yes, franchise moving would need league approval. So it’s not yet finalized and the Eastern League could say no for whatever reason.

    • Steve
    • February 18th, 2012

    I really don’t think the Eastern League will approve a renovation plan that doesn’t even begin less than 7 months before the start of the season. They’re already going out on a limb, likely approving Ottawa before the renovations have started. This can’t just be thrown together at the last minute.

    The reality is, the FC had their kick at it. They submitted their proposal(s) and were never able to secure more than a year to year lease arrangement with the City. The City wants/needs it’s stadium back in order to get ready for a tenant who’s guaranteeing them 10 years at more than 2x what the FC were paying. There are other venues for the FC to play at in Ottawa.

    • Pierre
    • February 19th, 2012

    The FC were never able to secure more than a year lease because the city did not want to give them more than a year. Same thing with the Rapids. Miles Wolff tried, I think he asked for ten years if I recall correctly, but the best the city was willing to do was four. Even Rob Hall I think had asked for twenty years but I think he went about it all wrong.

    You got it wrong in that it’s not the team doing the guarantee, it’s the city that wants that. Should the team fold before that, it would be liable, just like the Lynx were and breaking the last two years on their lease. Luckily for them, at least as far as paying those years, the Can-Am moved in and took care of it.

    Also, the rent just went up. That’s the city’s prerogative I guess and I don’t blame them and it makes sense.

    Not sure if there are other venues for the FC, especially at this late date. But they are probably looking into something for next year should they not come in agreement with a pro team. I actually don’t see that as a problem.

    I’m not sure if the Eastern League would have any say into a renovation plan. Some stuff yes, to make it minor league standard, like the lights, hitter’s background and that sort of thing. Should not be a problem, the park was designed to AAA standards.

    • Steve
    • February 20th, 2012

    There’s a reason why the FC weren’t granted lengthy lease extensions. Does it matter who wanted the 10 year term? The team will have to pay for any part of the term left unfulfilled if they leave. My point was, the City has some cost certainty here. The FC don’t have a right to use the Stadium after mid March, and they’ve known that for some time. I suspect that the City wasn’t pleased to see them go ahead and publish a schedule for 2012 as it makes them (i.e. the City) look like the bad guy. It’s a tactic reminiscent of a certain former character in the FC organization whom the City had a very dim view of.

    I just don’t see anything sinister here – i.e. The City’s out to get the Fat Cats! They’re being cautious about the renovation plan – which is probably wise. Most construction plans go over budget and over time. I may be the only one, but if we lose AA ball because we accomodated the Fat Cats and the renos don’t get done on time, I will be livid. Think about it… there’s less than a year to get AA up and running here and a bunch of pieces have to fall into place quickly and correctly. The League wants and needs a high level of certainty – and, according to the staff report tabled at the FEDCO meeting last week, they have to approve the renovation plan. They need to know and are demanding that Ottawa meets the League standards before they agree to a move.

    Setting aside the renovations, the notion that ANY part of this plan to bring a AA team here can safely be put off until the end of July or August isn’t realistic. The timelines are INCREDIBLY tight – the fledgling front office staff can’t even really begin marketing a team until after a PDC agreement in late September! This is extremely risky, yet Beacon Sports is willing to try it, in order to get things off the ground in 2013. If the safest thing to do is have the Fat Cats play somewhere else, that’s what should and has to happen. My advice to City council? If there’s even the slightest risk here of the deal falling through, don’t take any chances. You have a revenue neutral deal that sees significant improvements to the stadium with the bonus of affiliated baseball making a return to Ottawa. Don’t blow it.

    • Pierre
    • February 21st, 2012

    >> It’s a tactic reminiscent of a certain former character in the FC organization whom the City had a very dim view of.

    OK, now you’ve picked my curiosity. Who are you talking about? Owner Brian Carolan? GM Duncan McDonald? Someone else?

    >> I suspect that the City wasn’t pleased to see them go ahead and publish a schedule for 2012

    They did because they are in the league and as far as they were told, they can use the stadium. There’s absolutely no way the Fat Cats would exist today and play in 2012 if they could not use the stadium.

    These things don’t happen in February, just weeks before the start of the season. This lease thing was settled months ago.

    >> The City’s out to get the Fat Cats!

    I frankly don’t know what to say. Sounds like conspiracy theories.

    >> Setting aside the renovations, the notion that ANY part of this plan to bring a AA team here can safely be put off until the end of July or August isn’t realistic.

    Of that, I really have no idea. I know nothing about the renovation plan, apart from what is reported in the papers and I take some with a grain of salt and I know nothing about how long such things would take. I can only speculate and use my brains. They tell me it’s possible but I could be wrong.

    Until an expert says the stadium needs such and such repairs and will cost $x (which the city probably already has done since they know it will require $6 million), and how long it would take for each step of the project, I can’t comment. I can have opinions but not being the expert, they could all be wrong.

    PDC agreements are usually signed soon after a season. However, negotiations are started long before. The outcome is normally known well in advance. I don’t see that as a problem to market a team. Not when it’s official Binghampton or any other Eastern league team will move. The PDC is inconsequential. Major league teams have to put a team somewhere and therefore negotiate with the teams available, whatever the city. So if there is an EL team in Ottawa in 2013, some MLB team will basically be forced to enter into an agreement.

    >> If the safest thing to do is have the Fat Cats play somewhere else, that’s what should and has to happen.

    There I have to agree with you, not that it HAS to happen but SHOULD if the Fat Cats would be detrimental. At this point, I just don’t see that it NEEDS to happen. But again, I’m not the expert. If one says “we just can’t do these renovations with the team using the facilities”, then yes, it will have to happen.

    I just don’t think the Fat Cats using the stadium in 2012 can make or break having a AA team in 2013. The biggest hurdle in my mind is the league saying they don’t want a team in Ottawa.

    • @ndrew
    • February 27th, 2012

    Reported earlier this week in a local Ottawa publication, ‘The recent departure of Duncan MacDonald, who had served as General Manager of the Fat Cats, may have been related to the direction the city is s partnership with Beacon Sports Capital Partners, suggested Brian Carolan, president of Ottawa Sports Group, which runs the Fat Cats. MacDonald didn’t respond to a request for comment before deadline.’
    The Fat Cats have not released an official statement yet, and have gone so far as to delete any comments related to Duncan MacDonald or their future GM on their Facebook page.

    • Was thinking about doing an entire post on this. Andrew, do you think he left because he knows something we don’t about the future of this team?

    • Pierre
    • February 29th, 2012

    Duncan MacDonald’s departure reasons are all speculation at this point. Yes, it could be something we don’t know about the team’s future but knowing him a bit, I sort of doubt he would leave of his own will just because of a little trouble brewing. He’s not the type. For all we know, he’s leaving to take care of a sick family member or been offered a lucrative and/or desirable post.

    Not that I find it strange that there has been no comment by the team. But if people have been leaving messages on the FB page and they have been deleted, makes you wonder why. I haven’t seen any so this is all heresay to me.

    The timing of his departure with the recent talks of the stadium renovations and affiliated team coming in as soon as next year is too much of a coincidence. Doesn’t mean bad news for the Fat Cats however.

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