A few updates: Mandalay, Can-Am showing interest

It’s fitting that the deadline for Richard Billings and the city of Ottawa to bring Double-A baseball to Ottawa is on April Fool’s Day, as I’ve been fooled many times in this process – so many times in fact, that it’s tough to take any news or potential deal very seriously.

Take a look at this recent Ottawa Citizen article:

The Citizen has learned Mandalay Sports Entertainment and Professional Sports Catering, who already jointly own and/or operate several minor league teams at various levels throughout the United States, are working with Ottawa mayor Jim Watson’s office on a deal to completely renovate and operate Ottawa Stadium while bringing an existing Double-A Eastern League franchise to Ottawa.

Mandalay already owns the Eastern League’s Erie Sea Wolves in Pennsylvania, making that franchise the obvious choice to re-locate to Ottawa, possibly as early as 2014. That’s if a deal can be reached in short order for a complete overhaul of the stadium, long in need of a retrofit.

Professional baseball sources say the partners will “reinvent” the stadium as a sports and entertainment hub.

Industry insiders are cautious on Ottawa after a previous deal to bring the Eastern League’s Binghamton Mets collapsed at the final hour.

I’m definitely not going to call myself an industry insider, but those who are have every right to be cautious for reasons cited in the article. Nolan Ryan backed his group out of a deal after they decided at the last minute that they didn’t like what they saw, and the reports went from reading that Double-A was coming to the city, all the way to the other side of the spectrum.

It’s not the first time that’s happened either. Remember when the Bingo Mets extended their lease down at NYSEG Stadium? It was a similar story – this whole process has been an absolute roller-coaster and it shows no signs of stopping with a deadline looming.

Anyway, rant over, on to the point of the quote.

Reports made it clear after the Ryan back-out that we needed a new majority investor in order for this to go through, and fast. Right now, Mandalay Sports appears to be the saviour.

They also appear to be the real deal when it comes to success in minor league baseball. One of the teams they operate – the Dayton Dragons – holds the longest sell-out streak in the history of professional sports at 815 games and counting.

I had a little chat over Twitter with Dayton sportscaster Lee Mowen, who said that Mandalay does a great job with the Dragons and would expect the same with the Double-A team here.

However let’s not get too carried away (as we already have so many times in this process). The only thing that’s been reported is that Mandalay is in talks with the city and has visited the stadium. Nothing official has been announced, so for now all people can do is hope.

If things fall apart and the city can’t pound something in stone, there continue to be other options. Jon Willing recently had this piece on the Sun’s website. When you click on it, you’ll find that Miles Wolff’s interest in the Ottawa market hasn’t waned since the Rapidz ordeal.

“If the Eastern League fell through, we’d be very interested,” commissioner Miles Wolff said Friday.

Wolff said he was even considering coming up to Ottawa last month to check out the situation.

“It’s a major city with a good ballpark,” Wolff said. “The history hasn’t been that great, but there’s a good core of baseball fans there. The Fat Cats have done very well with just college players. It’s intriguing.”

I for one would welcome the Can-Am League back to Ottawa with open arms. It’s a quirky league with some potential rivalries (Ottawa-Quebec would be a great one), plus a schedule that fits this market a little better than that of the Eastern League.

There are lots of options on the table for Ottawa baseball, even if Double-A doesn’t get done. Given this recent Can-Am development and some other discussions that I’ve had, the possibility of baseball continuing to have a home on Coventry Road past 2014 appears to be alive and well.

I’ll have another update on the situation in a few weeks. Hopefully things will be resolved in the next month or two, but somehow I doubt it.

Side note

While we wait for this process to come to an end, I thought I’d share a piece of Ottawa baseball history. Some clips I came across a few days ago feature the inaugural Ottawa Rapidz game on May 22nd, 2008. This user has also posted many other videos from ball games in Ottawa, including some showing the final Lynx game in history.

  1. Any updates on that April 1st deadline?

    • Yes, apologize for the lack of an update, I’ve been under a pile of work for the last little bit. The deadline has been extended for another two months – I assume this means that there’s still a shot at a deal. Time is running short though.

      I should have an update post in a bit, hopefully by the end of next week.

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