Ottawa

Is this game over for Ottawa's baseball stadium?

An Ottawa city councillor is asking whether it might be time to call the game for Ottawa's baseball stadium.

Current deal with Champions not in city's financial interests, says councillor

RCGT Park, home of the Can-Am League's Ottawa Champions baseball team. (CBC)

An Ottawa city councillor is asking whether it might be time to call the game for Ottawa's baseball stadium.

"At what point do we say to the community, 'Do you want to keep funding this use here, even though very few people are attending that stadium, attending baseball games?'" Coun. Diane Deans asked.

"Or, is it time that we considered perhaps other uses for that property?"

Councillors on the finance and economic development committee will hear an update on the city-owned stadium on Coventry Road on Tuesday.

They'll also learn the latest on the agreement with the Ottawa Champions, the Can-Am League baseball team owned by Independent Baseball of Ottawa Inc.

Is it time that we considered perhaps other uses for that property?- Coun. Diane Deans

City staff terminated the 10-year lease council had approved in 2014 after the Champions fell $418,942 behind on rent.

The Champions were put on a repayment plan and entered into an arrangement to rent the stadium by the hour for the duration of the 2019 season, which ended last week.

Average attendance at home games was 1,800 this season, according to the Can-Am League's website. The stadium has capacity for more than 10,000 fans.

Renting by the hour

The new arrangement meant $162,844 in revenue for the City of Ottawa, less than half of what it earned with the lease in place, but at least the club could keep operating and pay back the overdue rent, staff reasoned.

The Champions paid hourly commercial rental rates, but also received special permission to keep using office space, operating concessions and parking on game days, and retained naming rights on the stadium, currently named for accounting firm Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton.

"What we have is a seasonal permit, and we've given them all the benefits of a long-term lease. It's not in the financial interests of the city," Deans said.

Deans takes issue with staff changing the terms without asking for council's approval, but was prevented from asking any questions at a July meeting.

Memo missed the mark: Deans 

Councillors received a memo from city staff responding to her concerns last week, but Deans said she still doesn't have the answers she was looking for.

The memo did underline that the Champions' seasonal permit was only to help them through their 2019 season, and can be reassessed each year.

The Ottawa Champions, in blue, take on the Cuban national team at RCGT Park in June. Average attendance slumped to about 1,800 per game this season, according to the league. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

The City of Ottawa has considered the stadium site on Coventry Road for a future affordable housing development, and a few councillors have wondered if it would be better to develop the land.

Ottawa Champions owner Miles Wolff was unavailable Monday to comment on the rental arrangement with the city, or the future of his team.

In July, a spokesperson told CBC News the team plans to remain in Ottawa until at least 2023.

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