Manitoba

Property committee splits on vote for lease with Goldeyes

The city and Winnipeg Goldeyes owner Sam Katz are still without a lease for Shaw Park as pressure mounts to get a deal done. Katz says he'll pull the pin on the team with no contract by fall.

Some councillors want to see ball club's books before signing a deal

Goldeyes owner Sam Katz says he could fold the team if some conditions on the ballpark lease are not met. (DanHarperPhoto.com/Downtown Winnipeg BIZ)

Winnipeg Goldeyes owner Sam Katz's five-year quest for a new lease for the city-owned downtown ballpark where his team plays is still unresolved after a council committee voted 2-2 on a deal proposed by the public service.

"I don't feel we have enough information. I want to see the financial statements. That's our land and we have to have that information," committee chair Cindy Gilroy said Monday.

"I don't want to be part of losing the Goldeyes," Coun. Janice Lukes said, explaining her vote in favour of the deal.

The lease deal now moves from the property, planning and development committee to the executive policy committee with some major questions unanswered.

The city and the Goldeyes have been locked in rounds of negotiations, appraisals and reports over the lease since 2015.

The proposal debated Monday is a 15-year lease for Shaw Park that would see the team pay annual rent of $75,000 in years one to five, $85,000 in years six to 10, and $95,000 in years 11 to 15. There are two five-year extensions possible following the first 15 years of the lease.

The current lease charges $1 per year and expires in three years.

The Goldeyes would continue to receive entertainment tax rebates until fall 2029, then face a review when a similar deal with True North Sports and Entertainment ends.

The city would also gain some revenue from parking on land around the ballpark.

Councillors spent 1½ hours of the all-day committee meeting grilling city staff on the deal.

They debated whether the Goldeyes had provided enough financial information and whether the team would fold if an agreement wasn't reached.

Goldeyes owner Sam Katz 'guarantees' there will be no professional baseball in Winnipeg if his team quits the field. (CBC)

Meanwhile, Katz, a former Winnipeg mayor, said some of the conditions in the lease are unacceptable.

The team must know it will get entertainment tax rebates in the future and needs to retain control over the parking lot, he said.

"Those are deal breakers. Is that what you want to hear? Those are deal breakers," Katz told reporters.

"I tried to make it very clear that without that parking revenue we would have losses in a lot more years than we've had, so why would I continue doing that?"

Property, planning and development committee chair Cindy Gilroy wants to see the Goldeyes' financial statements. (Travis Golby CBC)

St. Boniface Coun. Matt Allard voted with Gilroy, while Coun. Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) sided with Lukes and voted for the deal.

Coun. Brian Mayes, who recently chaired the property, planning and development committee but now heads the water and waste committee, spoke in favour of the deal, citing concerns the city would lose the team for good.

"Minor league baseball is in a great deal of difficulty; it's looking to contract, not expand," Mayes said.

"No one is coming to replace them. Post-COVID, it would be hard to start a new baseball team."

Katz said the pandemic has created an uncertain future for minor-league teams.

"The Winnipeg Goldeyes will have no revenues for 20 months," he said. "It's pretty drastic."

Katz needs clarity by fall because the Goldeyes' league needs him to commit to another five-year term, he said.

Shaw Park will sit empty without the Goldeyes, he predicted.

"I can guarantee you that there won't be professional baseball in Winnipeg."

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