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.

    • Doug K
    • June 18th, 2014

    Good report Michael. Not crazy about the name. What was wrong with the Rapidz? I doubt that it would have cost a great deal to buy it from whoever owns it.

    Hats off to all involved.

    • If it was up to me, I’d have chosen a different name as well – I was too slow, but I was going to submit the Ottawa ‘Loonies’ as a nod to the Canadian mint. But in the end I’m OK with Champions as the name.

  1. I’m not too thrilled about the name either, but at least it’s unique. 😉 Looking forward to hearing details about season tickets.

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