City wants OSEG, Winnipeg ball club owners to take on stadium lease
Different group has agreement-in-principle to buy Ottawa Champions, however
- City council approved the offer from the Katz/OSEG group on Dec. 3, 2019.
- It delegated authority to general manager Steve Willis to execute that lease.
The City of Ottawa has revealed who they'd like to take over the lease for the Ottawa Champions' stadium — and it's not the group with a tentative agreement to buy the struggling baseball club.
In a report released Friday, city staff endorsed a 10-year lease proposal for RCGT Park put forward by a potential partnership between the owners of the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball team and Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG).
OSEG is the owner of the CFL's Ottawa Redblacks and the Ontario Hockey League's Ottawa 67's. They also oversee Ottawa Fury FC, which recently suspended operations for the upcoming soccer season.
"The partnership has the resources, experience and economies of scale to provide the best opportunity of sustainable professional baseball in Ottawa," the report said.
The other lease bid came from a trio of local investors: Rob Abboud, portfolio manager with Wealth Strategies; Fred Saghbini, a project management consultant; and Rob Lavoie, the regional operations manager of Play it Again Sports franchises across the city.
The trio had reached an agreement-in-principle to buy the club from owner Miles Wolff. However, it's contingent on reaching a lease agreement with the city.
Bid 'on life support'
"We're disappointed, obviously," Abboud told CBC News Saturday. "We bought the Champions with the assumption that that would qualify us as the only group to negotiate with."
Abboud said the trio signed the agreement-in-principle certain they would get the lease, and were hoping to have the Champions ready for the 2020 season.
The trio had plans of not just offering sporting events at RCGT Park, Abboud said, but also concerts and festivals.
"Nothing is really dead until it's fully dead, but it's pretty close to it," he said. "[Our bid is] certainly on life support."
The report notes that if a deal can't be reached with OSEG and the Goldeyes owners, the city will begin negotiations with the investor trio.
If it does go through, that would mean OSEG would own or be involved in running nearly all of Ottawa's sports teams.
"It's very disappointing for me, as a city of Ottawa resident, to have the same group running almost all of the sports franchises in the city and running many of the jewels for sports and entertainment," Abboud said.
No one from OSEG was available for comment Saturday.
Still without a league
Even if the lease issue is swiftly resolved, the Champions currently have no league to play in.
This fall, they learned they'd been left off the roster of clubs that would take to the field in 2020 in the newly merged Can-Am and Frontier baseball leagues.
The report notes that the OSEG bid included two "expression of interest letters" offering Ottawa franchises for the 2021 season: one from the merged league, and one from the Atlantic League, which currently includes eight teams from Texas and the northeastern U.S.
Both leagues are planning to expand in 2021, the report said.
As well, OSEG has promised a "$500,000 capital injection into the franchise" and to settle "outstanding arrears from the previous owner," the report said.
Both groups were aware the city expects them to clear nearly half a million dollars in debt the Champions owe before they field a team.
The lease issue will be considered at the city's next finance and economic development committee meeting on Dec. 3.
With files from Trevor Pritchard and Kate Porter