End of the line for the Fat Cats?

Ottawa city councillor Bob Monette was in attendance at one of the Fat Cats’ final homestands. Jim Watson had also been out to the park this season. (photo courtesy Freedom Photography)

It’s been an interesting couple of days regarding the Ottawa Fat Cats.

OSG’s lease on the stadium expired 5 days ago—on September 15th. This was made official with the city kicking the Cats’ brass out of their offices on Tuesday, leaving many to wonder how much time the team has before something drastic is done—unless they strike a deal with the double-A group to continue play at the Stadium.

Here’s what the mayor had to say over twitter about the Fat Cats possibly sharing the stadium with the new double-A team.

Jim Watson @JimWatsonOttawa

@MNellisTLB we have one stadium and the lease will be for one team. We can barely support one team, let alone two!

Many people were confused by this. Rightfully so, as 2 teams using the same stadium has been done before and can be done once again.

Why wouldn’t the Fat Cats and the new double-A club be able to share Ottawa Stadium? My only conclusion is that Beacon Sports does not want the team around, as to my knowledge there’s been no effort from Beacon or the city to include the Fat Cats in the future. When I asked the mayor if that was accurate, I didn’t receive a reply.

Another thing here, where are the Champions of Ottawa Baseball on this? They said they “want a new team to complement our existing baseball culture including the Fat Cats”.

If they weren’t fibbing, you would think that we’d be hearing from them on the Fat Cats being thrown to the curb. There is still some time for them to comment, so I hope to hear something soon—if not, it will be very disappointing to see a group supposedly advocating for all baseball here let a team fall without at least attempting to put their foot in the door.

If there are any updates to be had on the whole process, I’ll update this post. The IBL is in Cambridge next week for meetings—we should know more about this by then.

In the meantime, here’s some reading material on the subject.

Update – 10/3/2012 9:56 PM

As promised, here’s an attempt to renew your understanding of this whole mess . It appears that the Ottawa Sun article that I linked was wrong and the IBL winter meetings didn’t take place during the week of September 24th-28th. In fact, it has yet to take place.

I was completely unaware of this. In fact, I found this out from an email that I sent earlier this evening to Commissioner Smith. Here’s his response to my request for an update on the situation:

Hi Michael,

Unfortunately there are still too many unknowns for the IBL to say anything of a definite nature. We are aiming at our Annual Meeting on October 23 to have clarity on the situation of the Fat Cats. When we have something clearly understood, I will gladly share it with you.

Stuart Smith, Commissioner IBL

Nothing shockingly new came from that reply, but it gives me relief that the Commissioner listens to the concerns of the IBL’s fans after all. It also gives us a new date to look forward to – October 23rd.

From what I’ve heard through my contacts with current (maybe former at this point) employees of the Fat Cats, the news that will come out of this will almost certainly be bad. However, we will still wait and cling on to the little glimmer of hope that is left.

Until next time, enjoy your Thanksgiving.

Update – 10/24/2012 5:16 PM

Welcome back! It’s now October 24th, with the IBL’s winter meetings behind us. Here is the latest update from your commissioner:

Hi Michael,

The IBL has assured the Fat Cats that a place will be held for them up to the point where we finalize our schedule for 2013 in a few weeks time. Past that point, we have also assured them that they can avail themselves of a year of “suspended animation” arrangement similar to the one we put in place in Guelph for the 2011 year and which allowed Guelph to be very competitive and successful in 2012.

In the meantime, we remain hopeful that the Ottawa civic authorities will recognize that the IBL offers the city, its taxpayers and its baseball fans the best value-for-money, by a country mile, where baseball is concerned and where stadium expenditures are concerned.

We understand the desire in Ottawa for a Blue Jays farm team. We feel, however, that any other non-Jay AA arrangement would lack roots in the community and would be wildly costly! Double A offers a brand of baseball that is admittedly somewhat better than the IBL but not noticeably so to average fans. There is no doubt in my mind that the IBL team should be permitted to play there, inexpensively, at least until such time as a Jays AA affiliate decides to come to Ottawa.

I’ll keep you up to date as things develop.

Stuart Smith

It’s also worth noting that the GM of the Barrie Baycats Doug Dimma has said on twitter that the Fat Cats “are not in the league for 2013”. I assume he is guessing that OSG won’t strike a deal before the 2013 schedule is made in a few weeks, which is a pretty good guess.

It’s almost impossible for something to get done in the coming weeks so I (again) assume that OSG will suspend the operations of the Fat Cats for a season. Look for that announcement to inevitably come on some form of Fat Cats social media.

 

    • Pierre
    • September 21st, 2012

    Unless the new lease for the next team says only they can use the stadium and no one else, the mayor’s comment is to be rejected. It won’t be (or shouldn’t be) up to the mayor to decide if the Fat Cats play or not in 2014. It will be up to the new team to use the stadium as they see fit. If that means letting the NCBL rent the stadium – which they have done in the past – or even the Fat Cats, then there’s no problem. Thing is, will they allow it or do they want to get rid of the Fat Cats?

    The Fat Cats play only 18 home games and only on weekends (not counting playoffs of course). There’s plenty of room for both. This would be like saying once the Senators came to be that the 67s would be gone. OK, not exactly the same thing as they don’t share facilities. But the two hockey teams fill different niches, different segments of the population. Same with the Fat Cats and a pro team. So why couldn’t the Fat Cats share the stadium as others do?

    The mayor’s comment also irks me in another way. He’s basically saying the city will hardly be able to support the pro team. Not a way to try to get a team to actually want to come here in the first place. Not a good selling job at all. In fact, the opposite. Wonder what he’ll say if the stadium remains empty in 2014 because of such comments. I can already hear others saying “see? Baseball has not/will not work here”.

    So I think the Fat Cats should be able to strike a deal with the AA group. Problem is, there is no official group yet the way I see it. And the stadium is being renovated and I doubt the city wants the Fat Cats to be in the way while that’s going on. So the Fat Cats will likely suspend operations for 2013, news to be anounced at the next league meetings. We’ll have to wait a year to know if they’ll continue in 2014. We’ll know in exactly one year what form, if any, baseball will have in the future.

    • “Thing is, will they allow it or do they want to get rid of the Fat Cats?”

      Judging by what the Mayor said, I would think that the latter is more likely here.

      I think his comments about baseball “barely surviving” here were poorly thought out and I think he’d probably back track from them if he was given the chance. He was probably trying to come up with an excuse for the Fat Cats getting dumped into a trash can by Beacon.

      I really don’t see why they can’t let the 2 teams co-exist. As you said, there’s only 18 home games and the number of dates can be trimmed down through double headers. It can happen.. it’s just a question of whether certain people want it to.

    • Josh
    • September 22nd, 2012

    What both the mayor and the new ownership group are worried about is the Fat Cats outdrawing the AA team. How would it look if the fat cats drew 3000+ at one game and the AA team was no where near that.
    Also lets be honest. This city doesn’t know how much of a difference in the levels of IBL and AA baseball are.

    • That’s a possibility. However say the Cats do strike a deal, times wouldn’t be as good as they are now. The other teams would likely have to start coming up mid week.

    • Pierre
    • September 22nd, 2012

    It would not look good if the Fat Cats outdrew a pro affiliated team, I agree. And it could happen. A cold spring dragging down a pro team’s average combined with a warm summer pushing up the Fat Cats and the averages could be embarrassing, although I’m sure the averages when both teams are playing would be about the same but hopefully higher for the pro team.

    As we know the FC can draw 3000 on occasion, that’s 3000 taken away from that pro team, so less revenues for them. They won’t ever admit it publicly but yes, it could be that Beacon wants the Fat Cats out.

    There’s also other issues. The regular season is not a problem but the playoffs would be. With all but one team not making the IBL playoffs, chances are the Fat Cats would participate and who knows how far they’d go. I don’t see the IBL coming here for a couple of mid-week playoff games. They’ve already shown they don’t like the idea. On the other hand, the Fat Cats have generated lots of revenues for the IBL and I for one think if they want to hold on to those revenues, they should be more flexible towards the team.

    Another issue is the city asking for almost triple the rent which the Fat Cats won’t be able to afford. This assumes no pro team ready to play in 2014. So pro team or not, the chances of Fat Cats ever playing another game here are slim in my opinion.

    Not sure what you mean Michael about things not being as good if they strike a deal. First, we’ve established that the IBL would come here only on weekends. Playoffs might be a bit of a scheduling issue but at most, this is just nine more games and most years probably four or five. Second, this helps the Fat Cats financially. No paying $108k a year for rent but just maybe $2k per game or about $50k a year including playoffs. They’d lose on advertising I would think.

    However, if you had disposable income to go see some baseball, at the same ticket price, do you pay to see a semi-pro team or a pro one? I think Josh is right about most residents’ knowing the difference but for those who do, this could reduce revenues for the Fat Cats. But I don’t know the answer of what would happen and Beacon may be thinking they want the whole baseball pie and I wouldn’t blame them from a business point of view. Although, for them too there’s advantages such as a lesser burden for the rent.

    • I don’t think the league will really have a choice. If they let the Fat Cats stay in the IBL, they’ll have to send teams up mid-week. I doubt double-A will let the FCs play on weekends that often. I could see the other owners voting the Fat Cats out of the IBL (I *think* they have that power) because of the scheduling issues.

  1. I think a big challenge, that we do little to address, is that we seem to think we need to put the new AA team AGAINST the Fat Cats, or vice versa. Josh best reflects this attitude with that ridiculous claim of FC’s outdrawing “AA” ball. Even if true (which is up for debate), as long as we divide our loyalties among the sport, we’ll struggle to have baseball. The City of Ottawa owns the facility and made a decision long ago to undertake a tenant process that will bring in more revenue for the CIty – this is the driver behind the entire process and as a taxpayer, I appreciate that approach let alone that it may deliver affiliated Major League baseball through an AA team.

    As a community, as fans, as citizens in the Nation’s Capital, why not just let the decision makers act in the best interest of the community as we have reflected through the Champs exercise and other venues ?

    Mike – you call me out on being silent about a possible sharing of the stadium/field for the FC’s in 2013. I am not silent – I never have been and you know that. These decisions are not within the Champions mandate and I have spoken publicly of an Ottawa baseball culture with the FC’s as a part of that.

    But as long as we contextualize the situation as one versus another, we’ll continue to do ourselves a dis-service.

    David G

    • I don’t know why I’ve left this out of my posts until now but I agree 100% on your first point about the 2 teams working together. Problem is, if neither group (Beacon or OSG) are willing to do so – and it doesn’t sound like they are – then it can’t work. I know that if both teams are around, I will cover and support both of them.

      Making good use of tax dollars may be something to appreciate, but dumping the other team in town is not. This is why Beacon should come in and embrace the Fat Cats instead of pushing them out.

      Dave, I realize that these decisions are not in the Champions mandate, but I don’t make decisions for the city either. I’m still advocating for the team. If you’re happy with how you’ve been supporting baseball in the community then that’s great, but I wouldn’t be supporting one direction over the other which is what appears to be happening right now (even if it isn’t true, that’s what it looks like).

    • Pierre
    • September 23rd, 2012

    >> I doubt double-A will let the FCs play on weekends that often.

    Why? The AA team won’t be playing here every weekend. When they are not, the FC can play. I don’t understand your logic.

    Only issues are that the FC (the IBL really) would have to make concessions. For example, the FC have played their first home game of the season on the May long weekend. I assume that was by design. The AA team would have scheduling priority and if there’s games that weekend, the Fat Cats will have to play on the road. Same for July 1st. The Lynx always played that game in Ottawa for obvious reasons and a AA team would surely be scheduled that day too. Of course, you could have a “double-header” with the pro team in the afternoon and the FC in the evening but that creates other potential problems.

    So I see no scheduling issues. The minor league schedule is released well before the IBL’s and the IBL would have to be the one setting the FC’s schedule accordingly. And since the FC generates revenues for the league, I think kicking them out would be the last thing they’d want to do. If the FC cease to exist, it will be because the pro team doesn’t want to share and as discussed, there are many reasons they would not want to.

    One of those reasons is a FC vs AA team. It may be that the AA team sees FC as competitors. Not quite like the Senators and 67s however. First, those hockey teams don’t share one facility. Second, they don’t share the same entertainment dollar (Sens tix are much higher than 67s whereas the FC and a AA team would be about the same). As a business, you don’t share facilities with a competitor selling the same thing. That may be the same attitude that the AA team is taking and it makes perfect business sense. But we don’t know what they’re thinking. They may be just fine with FC using the facilities.

    Right now, I see no indication that either group doesn’t want to work with the other. The only thing is, the FC were told to vacate. The lease after all ran out on September 15. That was a city decision, nothing indicating Beacon was involved in that. But if they decide they don’t want the FC, nothing we can do about it and unfortunately, it means the Fat Cats are done.

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