Archive for June, 2014

An inside look at Ottawa Stadium

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As you all know, the new Can-Am League squad coming to Ottawa was announced this past Monday as the Ottawa Champions. New team president Dave Gourlay has reassured that the team’s home, Ottawa Stadium, will be brought up to the standards of professional baseball.

In the mean time, the stadium is waiting for noticeable work to start. Given that, I figured that I would venture down to the ball park and take some pictures, to give everyone a gauge. We aren’t sure what exactly will be done during renovations, but they may become more noticeable thanks to these shots.

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An NCBL game was ongoing at the time that these pictures were taken – the Knights took on the Orioles in a Tier 3 match-up. It is nice to see community involvement at the stadium while we await the arrival of the Champions. Great seats still available!

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To the left of the stadium’s entrance we see a good portion of the parking lot cut off due to construction of the pedestrian bridge and the widening of Highway 417. As of now, it looks like a considerable amount of parking will be lost on the right field side.

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Here is another shot of the pedestrian bridge. I’m not sure what their plan is in terms of where it will be landing, but it seems like it could be connecting directly to the stadium. I wouldn’t be surprised to see two exits – one to the parking lot and the other to the ballpark.

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A few years earlier, this now empty concourse was filled with fans waiting for hot dogs and other various snacks. With some minor adjustments, it could do so again easily.

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Does this area look familiar? It should. This is the former merchandise shop at the stadium which seems to have now doubled as a storage room since the city took the building back from OSG. You can even see the Tax Man shopping cart in the middle of the room.

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The former lawn area on the left field side of the ballpark hasn’t actually changed that much from the days of the Fat Cats. I’ve always said that this area has potential for something very nice, such as an outdoor restaurant.

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However, the lawn is not the only area where you’ll find picnic tables at the moment. They have been placed all over the ballpark.

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The content of these signs has been a constant at the ballpark for years. If I recall correctly, the very same advertisements were up 7 years ago with the Lynx in town.

The old branding of the Rogers TV portion would back that up. I’d personally like to see not only new ads with the new team, but new stadium signage altogether. The current displays are old and rusty – one out toward the edge of the right field concourse was actually shaking in the wind.

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One area where I was impressed was the lack of the “Lynx” name still around the stadium. The only place where I could find it was on the parking gate entrances, and on this directory which displays “Lynx clubhouse” in the top left corner.

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And of course, what would a nearly-abandoned baseball park be without vegetation and weeds growing?

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There was no shortage of them either.

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I will leave off for today with a shot of what could be the most recognizable part of this ballpark – the scoreboard. It was the first and only scoreboard Ottawa Stadium has ever seen, but this is most likely one of the last shots you’ll ever see of it. The Champions will invest a considerable amount in a new board for their inaugural season.

$750,000 has been pledged toward the upgrading of this park. Soon, we will see all of it come to fruition. Consider this the final look at a version of Ottawa Stadium which has gone virtually untouched for 21 years.

Hopefully, most of the areas in dire need of replenishment will get just that.

The ‘Champs’ are here: Can-Am team announces name

Ottawa Stadium's seats won't be empty for much longer.

Ottawa Stadium’s seats won’t be empty for much longer.

Ottawa Stadium was packed with media members, civil servants and baseball executives Monday as the Ottawa Can-Am Franchise held their first press conference, unveiling the team’s name.

The event effectively launched a new era on Ottawa baseball.

The following is a press release from the Ottawa Media Group, the franchise’s media partner:

Ottawa, ON – The future of professional baseball in the Ottawa-Gatineau region looks bright after a major announcement today at Ottawa Stadium. Baseball visionary and CanAM Commissioner Miles Wolff announced with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson that community baseball champion, David Gourlay, will be President of Ottawa’s new CanAM team. They also officially unveiled the team name as “OTTAWA CHAMPIONS”.

“I fell in love with Ottawa and I promised to come back and not leave until we do it right,” said CanAM Commissioner Miles Wolff.  “We really look forward to the Champions playing ball in Ottawa next spring and staying for the long run.”

The City of Ottawa and the team signed a 10-year agreement to provide stability for the sport and an opportunity to bring more fans and events to an under-utilized facility. Ottawa will begin play in late May 2015 and will join established CanAM teams in Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, Rockland (NY) and New Jersey.

“We’re glad to have the Champions in town starting next spring,” said Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. “This group provides strong local roots and it will help us revitalize Ottawa Stadium and the baseball community.”

The team will leverage the City’s investment in the facility and in turn devote a lot of time and effort to the community while looking for local partners and suppliers. The event also kicked off a logo contest for local graphic designers to come up with the visual aspects of the new team.

“The Champions will become a strong reflection of our community,” said the newly crowned President of the Ottawa Champions, David Gourlay. “We will focus on building partnerships to ensure families and baseball fans across the City enjoy the best possible experience at the ballpark while providing them an affordable and fun experience in the summer months”.

The team also announced a partnership with Ottawa Media Group, a newly minted communications firm headed by Eric Collard and Kimothy Walker and involving top local talent.

As expected, the Champions name has already met some harsh criticism – par for the course here in Ottawa.

Dave Gourlay has mentioned that the name not only represents the team’s eventual on-field success, which could very well happen with the right people in the right positions, but the community involvement that the franchise will take part in.

One would think that they will continue to support the Miracle League of Ottawa, of which Gourlay has an affiliation. The Miracle League’s goal is to allow special needs children to partake in the game of baseball – a commendable mission that heavily benefits the community.

I’ve liked this “community” spin on the new brand, and don’t mind its on-field implications either; it’s a bold name that will turn some heads around the Can-Am League and potentially the American Association. If anything, we can expect more heated competition at Ottawa Stadium come 2015.

The release above also mentions that the founder of Champions of Ottawa Baseball, David Gourlay, has been named team president.

For the long-term viability of the franchise, having someone like Gourlay at the helm is instrumental. He has proven since the launch of his campaign to bring Double-A baseball to Ottawa that he is not one to back down from a challenge.

As president of a Can-Am League team in Ottawa, Gourlay will face many challenges to do with the viability of the franchise in Ottawa and ways to make it a good fit. I have a good amount of confidence in Gourlay, who has shown that he is willing and able to back a Can-Am franchise.

Gourlay will help oversee many changes and approaches that were highlighted by Miles Wolff during a TSN 1200 interview this afternoon.

Currently, Wolff acts as majority owner of the franchise and doesn’t appear to feel any pressure to sell that stake off. We all remember Rob Hall’s tenure with the Ottawa Rapidz that was short-lived and eventually led to the folding of the franchise. Hall was allowed to take control of the Rapidz due to the haste selling of the franchise by the league.

However, Miles Wolff will be the first to tell you that his group made a mistake and is ready to learn from it this time around.

“Until Sunday I thought I had a potential majority owner, but as I mentioned in the past I rushed into ownership and it wasn’t right.” Wolff said to Lee Versage. “I just felt that the person we were talking to wasn’t the right fit.”

“This is too good a market not to do it right. It’s gotta be the right person with the right experience, so if majority ownership doesn’t happen, that’s not a problem.”

This mindset is encouraging and drives the average fan to believe Wolff and Gourlay when they say that things will be done differently this time around. If it is, we may see the full potential of the Ottawa market in full swing.

The success that Ottawa Stadium Group brought to the ballpark with the Fat Cats can be seen once again. With the Champions here and nearly set almost a year before opening pitch, it gives them much more time to plan and execute.

I hope others are as optimistic as I am.

In the coming months, we’ll see renovations take effect on Ottawa Stadium, a logo release and much more. We’ll be following it here on the Litter Box until opening pitch.