Winnipeg Goldeyes owner Sam Katz takes a swing at new baseball team in Ottawa
Former Winnipeg mayor teams up with owner of CFL's Redblacks in bid for Ottawa baseball stadium lease
Winnipeg Goldeyes owner Sam Katz has teamed up with the owners of the Canadian Football League's Ottawa Redblacks in an effort to bring minor-league professional baseball back to the nation's capital.
On Dec. 11, Ottawa's city council will consider a plan to lease 10,332-seat Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton Park — a city-owned facility also known as Ottawa Baseball Stadium — to a partnership between Katz and Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), which owns the CFL Redblacks and the Ontario Hockey League's Ottawa 67's.
The partnership hopes to operate a new baseball franchise at the stadium, which was left without a tenant after the City of Ottawa terminated a lease with the owner of the Ottawa Champions of the Can-Am League.
The Champions racked up $463,000 in rent arrears. The proposed lease calls for the Katz-OSEG partnership to absorb those arrears, pay $125,000 a year in annual rent and to allow the City of Ottawa to generate advertising and sponsorship revenue in part of the stadium, according to Ottawa council documents.
Katz said he's confident he and his partners will succeed where the Champions did not.
"I have very little doubt we can do things differently and make it a success," Katz said Wednesday in a telephone interview. "It's not businesses that fail. It's people that fail. I'm of the opinion we can do it."
Katz, who served as Winnipeg's mayor from 2004 to 2014, has owned and operated the American Association's Winnipeg Goldeyes since 1994. During that time, the Goldeyes have finished first or second in attendance in two independent baseball leagues.
Minor-league baseball could be just as popular in the nation's capital, he said.
"Ottawa is a phenomenal city," said Katz. "What people are always looking for is some form of quality entertainment that's affordable. And I think you've heard me say on many occasions that I define baseball as quality and affordable entertainment."
Katz said the new Ottawa franchise would come without any of the baggage of the Champions. It would play in independent baseball's Atlantic League or Frontier League, beginning in 2021, according to the report recommending the lease to Ottawa city council.
The report lauds the Goldeyes for finishing with a winning record in 22 out of its first 26 seasons and for developing players who went on to sign with major-league teams.
"Katz and the Goldeyes have actively supported the growth and betterment of the Winnipeg community," the report says.
While the Goldeyes owner is looking to bring professional baseball back to Ottawa, he's also in the midst of negotiating a new lease for his team to play at Winnipeg's Shaw Park.
Katz said he has no intention of moving the Winnipeg team to Ottawa.
"Don't believe all the rumours you hear," he said with a laugh.
"We have an existing lease on our facility, which is there for another four years."