Archive for September, 2013

Can-Am League handed Ottawa’s baseball dreams

Jared Lemieux gets set to bat for the Ottawa Rapidz in a 2008 Can-Am League game (photo courtesy Nicolas Rouleau)

Jared Lemieux gets set to bat for the Ottawa Rapidz in a 2008 Can-Am League game (photo courtesy Nicolas Rouleau)

In an unprecedented turn of events, the city of Ottawa has ruled against pursuing a double-A team at Ottawa Stadium.

It has been recommended that an independent Can-Am League team moves in to Ottawa Stadium.

Here is a portion of the press release from the city, full version can be found here:

 

Ottawa – A staff report to be considered by the Finance and Economic Development Committee on October 1 and by City Council on October 9 recommends approval of an offer from the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball to lease the Ottawa Stadium and return professional baseball to the capital.

If the offer is approved, international pro baseball would begin in May 2015 with an Ottawa team joining five others in the Can Am league – two in Quebec and three in the northeastern U.S. – including 50 home games at the Ottawa Stadium.

“I am pleased that this challenging two-year process is coming to fruition,” said Mayor Jim Watson. “Our goal was to secure a long-term professional baseball tenant for this important purpose-built facility, and do so while getting the best value for taxpayers.”

Through this process, the City has refined its vision for the long-term use of the Ottawa Stadium in a way that will preserve the facility, see professional baseball return to Ottawa, and open the doors for a variety of other community uses. In addition to being reanimated with 50 baseball home games in a professional international league, the Ottawa Stadium would also be used as a recreation and entertainment venue with 50 to 75 additional days of programming each year.

“The City has worked hard to find a solution that is fair for taxpayers, sports fans, community groups and the public,” said Orleans Councillor Bob Monette. “If this plan is approved, I hope all residents will join us in supporting our new Can-Am team and attending new activities at the facility in order to make the most of this important community asset.”

As you can most likely tell from my previous posts, this is a gigantic step in the right direction for Jim Watson and the city. Double-A baseball was not the way to go, as the cost for taxpayers was significant. A Double-A team would have been a decent investment of these tax dollars, however when handling the money of residents, less is usually better.

You’ll note that I italicised the word ‘usually’, as there are some obvious exceptions.

Miles Wolff stated that the cost for renovations under Can-Am requirements is much less than the term of approximately $30 Million that was announced as a possibility if affiliated baseball was chosen. “With the money that has been spent thus far on the stadium, I think it will take a lot less than $5 Million to bring it up to shape” Wolff said in an email.

Given that, and using the ‘less is better’ analogy in this situation, it really seems like a win-win. The other ‘win’ being that we still get good quality baseball in Ottawa.

I was in Quebec City earlier this summer and had the pleasure of taking in a Capitales game at the old Stade Municipal. The calibre of baseball was surprisingly good – I don’t remember the Rapidz being able to play at the level of Quebec and the visiting St. Paul Saints (albeit, these squads are a little better than the Rapidz were).

For the many in Ottawa who have not been to Double-A baseball games before, this calibre will be more than suitable, just as the Fat Cats were when they drew over 4,000 per game on average during the 2011 playoffs.

In terms of an ownership group, I wouldn’t worry too much. While we should see investors step into the role, Miles Wolff would run the team in the short term. Who knows, maybe he’d take the reins and run with the team himself in the event that there is no potential buyer in the first season or two. Wolff did the same thing with the Quebec Capitales, leading them into a championship dynasty that is now in its 5th year.

Another point to make – you can be sure that Wolff will be careful in choosing his new ownership group for this Can-Am team following the Rapidz fiasco in 2008. Zip.ca boss Rob Hall was handed the Ottawa Rapids franchise, butchered the branding and bailed after just one season leaving Ottawa Stadium to rot.

It appears that the majority of reaction from baseball to this development has been negative, as expected. Many were excited about the Double-A possibility.

I understand that Double-A baseball is a primary developmental league full of big-shot prospects and would be a great addition to Ottawa’s sports environment, but in the end it comes down to what works in this market.

The Can-Am League is a low-cost option with a business model that fits with the Ottawa market for baseball. Hopefully most fans that are caught in the moment step off their soapboxes and support this new club, if it does indeed materialize. With the right people in charge, the Can-Am League will find huge success in Ottawa.

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