My reply to “Time to wake up and sell field of dreams”

Someone show this to Elizabeth Payne

For those of you who haven’t had a look through Elizabeth Payne’s editorial, here’s your opportunity, because I’m getting straight to the point here.

A lot of Ottawa’s ball fans have been very polite in disagreement with Ms Payne on her take. It says a lot about the class that you guys have, as not many fanbases would deal with someone basically calling for the extinction of their team and sport like you guys have.

Unfortunately, I’m not of the same nature. Let’s break things down.

Baseball doesn’t seem to want Ottawa and Ottawa doesn’t want baseball. So why does the same city that has just voted to close a municipal equestrian park still own a white elephant baseball stadium?

Oh boy. We’re off to a bad start, Liz.

I’d like you to tell the record-shattering attendance numbers of the Ottawa Fat Cats that baseball doesn’t belong here. The only team that can occasionally (once or twice a year) draw as well as the Fat Cats in this league are the London Majors and even then their numbers barely come close to those of the Fat Cats.

Last fall, a semi-pro baseball team stuffed almost 8,000 people in their home stadium to watch a game. You couldn’t find another city or town in this country that would manage that.

Before the Fat Cats came the Rapidz. For some reason, the media likes to claim that the Rapidz left because of a lack of fan support. This isn’t the case, as you should know. The league-owned Voyageurs (formerly the Rapidz) left the city as a result of the Atlantic City Surf not finding an owner for 2009. The Can-Am League told the public that they couldn’t operate with 7 teams, or financially support both the Surf and the Voyageurs.

After the move, Can-Am League commissioner Miles Wolff said “We would love to come back to Ottawa next year.”

And so Ottawa holds on to Ottawa Stadium, a field of dreams that long ago began looking more like an island of wishful thinking — with semi-pro ball players washing their dishes and living part-time in VIP boxes for an added touch of low-rent colour.

The second part of this blurb really gets me. It’s obviously not ideal, but these players are trying to get somewhere within the game of baseball and are clearly doing whatever they can to do reach their goals, as shown here. If it was their choice, they wouldn’t be living in those suites, but they want to get somewhere, so they make that sacrifice.

All this and you’re making fun of them for it? It’s absolutely shameful for you to pull BS like that, Ms Payne. Do you think that they’re proud of their living situation? Definitely not, so why are you using their struggle to get by as an attempt at a joke? Crossed the line right there. Hopefully you retract that horribly insensitive comment.

Ottawa Stadium, a state-of-the-art acility built in 1992 for $17 million, is now an underused, even misused facility that still manages to cost taxpayers money based on the hope that it will someday again serve the purpose for which it was built

Alright, I’m putting my superb math skills in use for this one. As Andrew previously mentioned, the NCBL puts Ottawa Stadium to use very frequently. Last I checked, they’ve played 60 games per year at Ottawa Stadium for the past few seasons.

The Fat Cats play 18 home games every season. Add those together, and you get 88 different baseball games being played at a stadium which primary use is baseball in one season. The Lynx only played around 72 games per season.

If a baseball stadium is being misused while it’s hosting more baseball games than it ever has before, than I’d like to know what has to be done for it to be used properly!

This year there was hope in the form of Beacon Sports Capital Partners, a group that wants to bring double-A baseball to the city, as part of a Toronto Blue Jays affiliate, if possible. For many local baseball fans, it was the first real ray of hope in awhile that professional baseball would return to the city. But then the Blue Jays announced they had other plans and would keep a double-A affiliate in New Hampshire, at least until 2014. What will happen after that? Who knows.

Actually, there are many who know what’s going on. The Jays are going through a minor-league transformation right now. I would be shocked if the Jays weren’t using this extra time to get their AAA team out of Las Vegas. Setting up a new AAA team in another market would take… hmmm… about 2 years if you started the stopwatch now.

If I were the Jays, I wouldn’t want to be moving 2 minor league teams in the same span either. Once AAA is moved somewhere more suitable, then the Ottawa team comes into play. Of course, this is all just speculation but if Ms Payne can do so about Ottawa not getting the team in her editorial—Payne: “The Beacon Sports proposal would cost $452,000, if it goes ahead, which seems unlikely”—then I don’t see why I can’t.

I could go on and on when it comes to this editorial. Ms Payne has a couple different spurts of apathy, cold-heartedness and just downright ignorance in her piece. One has to wonder how this got on the front page of the paper.

    • Pierre
    • July 13th, 2012

    The only thing I object to is her describing the stadium as a white elephant. I don’t think it’s a white elephant myself. From my knowledge and perspective, the city is not putting any (or little) money to upkeep. They’ve dumped all the maintenance on the team which cannot afford it. Plus, they’re charging them for rent. Seems to me that rent should help in maintaining the building. So even if her figure of $350k (too lazy to read it again, I have that figure in my brain for whatever reason) is correct, and I have some doubts, it’s really $250k for Ottawa taxpayers once we figure the rent into it. That’s just a quarter a year per resident. I’m not even taking into account other revenues from events, parking and what not they are likely charging the team. I’m sure there’s taxes in there too in some form.

    So yeah, off to a bad start.

    Could we all stop mentioning attendance in one way or another? Sure, it’s important but it is what it is. You can’t compare the Fat Cats attendance to what the Lynx or Rapidz got. You can’t compare to other teams in the league. They are totally different markets. Comparing the Fat Cats to the Lynx is a bit like comparing the 67s to the Senators. Comparing them to London or other teams in the league is like comparing the Canadiens to the Kings or other city.

    It’s great that the Fat Cats drew over 7000 during a game last year. Kudos to the marketing team. It would be great if that happened every game, more particularly in a regular season game, but it will rarely happen. Let’s deal with it that this city has a certain character and a certain number of hardcore baseball fans, a certain number of casual fans who attend a few games a year, a certain number of people who will come to a game once or twice a year for the entertainment and the rest who don’t give a s….

    The part about the recent CBC discovery of players living at the stadium shouldn’t get to you. It was to be expected that some journalists would run with it. I don’t think people care since most don’t care about baseball. If it was the 67s, maybe it would be different and there’d be more of an uproar. I’m actually surprised more people don’t blame the team more for this. They should have known better but it will pass, just somewhat of bad short-term publicity.

    As for stadium usage, sure, it could be used more. But it is hardly underused.

    As you mentioned, there’s something going on there almost every day, not just Fat Cats games. Even during the Lynx days, other local teams used it. If memory serves, there were over 100 events last year. Not bad when the reasonable weather window is about 180 days, some would call it less.

    I do have a suggestion for using it more: are the ultimate frisbie enthusiasts still looking for a place? Also, whatever happened to the idea of Baseball Canada using it? Another idea is using it for movies. I’d call Kevin Costner right away.

    Stop hoping the Jays will bring their AAA team here. Won’t happen. Probably not any of their other minors affiliates either, at least in the foreseeable future.

    That Jays thing coming here was started by that counselor who should have kept his mouth shut. He’s the one who didn’t know what’s going on.

    Will we get a pro team? It looked official not so long ago. Now, it looks dead. We’ll have to wait until at least September when this sort of thing can be discussed officially. The fact remains however that for this stadium to remain standing, it needs a pro team.

    • Doug
    • July 16th, 2012

    As a relative newcomer to Ottawa, I refuse to believe that the city cannot support a minor league team. I don’t know what happened to the Lynx but this town is severely lacking baseball in the summer.

    I applaud all those involved in getting the situation rectified. It can’t happen soon enough.

    • Paul
    • July 17th, 2012

    What about a all independent canadian baseball league. The east already has quebec, trois rivieres, and ottawa. The west has edmonton, calgary, and now fort mcmurray. It looks like Fort McMurray could have it’s ballpark built for 2014. What about Montreal any news on a ballpark? Four teams in the West/East, this league could work. The CFL can do it so can baseball in Canada. Couple major sponsors maybe a airline deal this thing could work.

    • I’ve thought of that before, but they would need a huge amount of money to pay for travel costs. I believe that’s what did the CBL in in 2003 (yes, they’ve tried this before).

    • Paul
    • July 17th, 2012

    I know it’s been done before, but lets face it that was almost 10 years ago and independent baseball was just starting to form. Like I said if you had four teams in the west/east, play a 90 game season 45 home/away, play 22 games against each team in your division for a total of 66 games, and 24 games versus the other division. That’s one road trip to the other division for 12 games. Travel within your division would be done by bus to keep costs down. An airline deal with Air Canada or Westjet could be made or get a couple major sponsors just to cover the flight costs for the teams. This Canadian league could work with the right people running it. Stick with eight teams for a year or two to make it strong a get it going, and then add Winnipeg, London, maybe even Regina, Hamilton if ballparks could be built. In my mind people need to forget about affiliated baseball in Canada. If it was going to come back it would’ve been back along time ago. Cities like Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa will never see affiliated baseball again it’s time for canadian baseball to start it’s own pro indy league. I think the support would be big if it’s done right… how cool would it be for people in Ottawa to see Edmonton or Calgary play. I know im interested.

    • If they can do it the right way then absolutely I would be interested. It would definitely be a challenge, but if someone is willing to give it a shot with the right mindset and strategy than I would love to see it happen.

    • Pierre
    • July 18th, 2012

    Paul, I don’t know if we’re going to see affiliated baseball again in Ottawa. Frankly, speaking for myself, I don’t care much for affiliated baseball anymore but we do need some sort of pro team here. The options are few. Affiliated, which basically is the Eastern league which is the one being approached (AA ball), the NY-Penn league (short season A) which to me makes the most sense for this city as far as affiliated is concerned or independent of which there is really only the Can-Am. Nice thing about the Can-Am is that they WANT to be in Ottawa.

    The problem with the CBL was likely poor management. All teams were owned by the league. This is good in theory but I think you need someone local to run things. The CBL may not have been marketed properly.

    There’s not many cities in my mind available for CBL 2.0. Ottawa, Trois-Rivieres has a stadium being un-used. London has a stadium but now home to Rippers (for however long they may stay there) and Majors. If the Rippers leave soon, who would want to try pro ball there again? Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg all have successful indie league teams. Montreal needs a stadium, not sure of that situation right now, I think they are building one.

    • I’m just hoping that Can-Am is around after this season. There are currently just 5 teams left in the league with Newark having financial trouble. If the Bears can’t make it into next season, will the league operate with 4 teams? They’re pretty much just a division of the American Association as it is with all the interleague games they’re playing. I could see them merging the remaining 4 teams with the American Association next year if the Bears don’t operate.

      I agree in that Short-A is what we need and what we should be chasing if we’re going after affiliated ball. It just seems to fit with this market given the interest that baseball generates here (2-3,000 hardcore fans).

      There’s a reason why Trois-Rivieres Municipal Stadium is empty, unfortunately. They drew around 200 people per game with the Saints in the CBL and it wasn’t much better in the neutral site exhibition games in 2009 that the Can-Am league ran. Those averages were around 700 if memory serves.. I wouldn’t see a Trois-Rivieres team lasting.

      Calgary actually doesn’t have an indy team right now. The Vipers folded after 2011 and the Capitals from Edmonton have been on hiatus since 2011 as well. I see Labatt Park opening up after this year since the Rippers are likely on their way out, but like you said I think pro baseball has run it’s course there.

      Where did you hear of MTL building a stadium? It would be great if that happened. Many road trips would be in order for an MiLB/Indy team over there.

    • Pierre
    • July 19th, 2012

    >> Where did you hear of MTL building a stadium?

    In French and back in November:
    http://www.rds.ca/baseball/chroniques/329934.html

    Haven’t heard or kept up with what’s going on with this. This link was on another French site http://www.encorebaseballmontreal.com but I see no mention of it since.

    >> it wasn’t much better in the neutral site exhibition games in 2009 that the Can-Am league ran.

    Actually, it was just last year, regular season and it was 845 (http://canam.bbstats.pointstreak.com/attendance.html?leagueid=201&seasonid=492). Not good and did we not do much better in 2009 as I recall which is what you may be thinking of.

    There’s a certain chance I guess the Can-Am and AA merge. They effectively have this year.

    • Paul
    • July 19th, 2012

    The CanAm League is in rough shape, when you go from eight teams in 2011 to five in 2012 things don’t look good for the future of the CanAm. Not only is Newark in trouble but Worcester is also on the rocks. I think if Newark folds after this season the CanAm is all but done, Worcester along with New Jersey will also close up shop if Newark folds, I could see Rockland joining the Atlantic League, and that leaves Quebec all alone. It’s going to be a interesting off season again for indy baseball. As for affiliated baseball it’s not going to happen in Ottawa, triple-A, double-A, or whatever it is. The Milb has shifted away from Canada and won’t be coming back. It works in Vancouver because the Northwest League is right in there backyard. As years go by the ballparks in Canada get older and so on, the american teams don’t want to add additional travel to what they already have, the closest double-A team to Ottawa is Binghamton and that’s 5 + hours away when you add in the border crossing, and stops to eat. Binghamton is the team mentioned to move to Ottawa so your next closest team is New Hampshire 7+ hours away it’s just not going to work in my mind. Why add extra travel for all the other teams just so you can have a team in Canada. If the Blue Jays wanted to do it, then why hasn’t it been done. It’s time for Canada to focus on indy baseball and build this thing. Quebec, Winnipeg, and Edmonton all have great organizations, while Edmonton may not have a league to play in they are owned and operated by the Edmonton Oilers. If Ottawa, Calgary, and Trois Riviers could all find the proper ownership I can’t see why a Canadian League wouldn’t work.

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