The Ottawa Rapidz baseball team is filing for bankruptcy and ending its run with the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball (Can-Am) league after just one season.
League commissioner Miles Wolff said he was "very disappointed" when Rapidz chairman Rob Hall broke the news at the league's annual meeting Monday.
"Ottawa was an important city for us and we'd hoped they'd be a member for many years to come," Wolff said.
"We had hoped to have a really strong Canadian division and Ottawa was really a big part of that, so obviously losing Ottawa — it hurts."
The Rapidz finished last in the league during their inaugural season, but drew respectable crowds despite their performance and the rainy weather this summer.
Team owes $1.4M
City of Ottawa solicitor Rick O'Connor sent a memo to councillors Monday night about the team's recent troubles, stating that the Rapidz Baseball Club Inc. has unpaid debts totalling about $1.4 million to 130 creditors. With respect to the city, it owes $10,415 for a water bill and $10,500 to OC Transpo, the memo said.
Attached was a letter dated Sept. 26 sent to the city and other creditors by bankruptcy trustee Collins Barrow Brown Inc., which provided notice of the filing and included a letter from Hall.
"It is with deep regret that the Ottawa Rapidz takes this step to address its outstanding financial obligations," Hall's letter said. It went on to mention recent discussions with the city about a long-term lease, and alleged "the city is pressing for a 10-fold lease payment increase; from about $100,000 to $1 million annually."
The City of Ottawa denied Tuesday that it had pushed for such an increase, alleging that the $1 million figure was a hypothetical one thrown out to illustrate a point during discussions about a long-term arrangement for the stadium. Possibilities included the Rapidz buying out the stadium or leasing it with the right to use it for other events in addition to baseball games.
Wolff said Hall told him that the team had lost money and was not able to get a long-term lease for its stadium.
He added that $100,000 a year was more than what most teams pay in rent.
A year remains on the two-year lease, but Wolff said the Rapidz felt next season would be a "lame duck season" if everyone knew it would be the last.
Rumours of team's demise
Rapidz pitcher Tanner Watson said that as of Tuesday morning, he only knew what he had heard through the media.
"Nobody's called me and said that, 'Oh, we're done,'" Watson said.
He added that there had been rumours of the team's demise, but the confirmation was a letdown, especially given the Rapidz had higher attendance than the last baseball team that failed in Ottawa, the triple-A Ottawa Lynx. The Lynx left for Allentown, Pa., in 2007 after 15 seasons in Ottawa.
Wolff suggested that while it was the end for the Rapidz, the league might come back to Ottawa with another team.
He said the league has had good dealings with Ottawa's mayor and city council in the past, and will talk to them to see if it has some other options.
The Rapidz finished their inaugural season in last place in the League.