Champions, city strike new deal as ball club struggles to pay rent
Team will no longer be sole leaseholder for RCGT Park
The City of Ottawa has terminated the Ottawa Champions' stadium lease but has worked out a facility agreement that will allow the baseball club to remain in the nation's capital.
The Champions and the city had agreed in 2015 to a 10-year lease on Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton (RCGT) Park, with the club paying $358,000 each year in base rent.
But the team has failed to meet its revenue projections and now owes the city $418,942 in back rent, according to a memo from Gordon MacNair, the director of the city's corporate real estate office.
"As a result, the Champions requested the city consider a new arrangement for operating a professional baseball team at 300 Coventry Road," MacNair wrote in the memo, shared this week with members of the city's finance and economic development committee.
No plans to leave
The Champions have had success on the diamond, winning the Can-Am League championships in 2016.
But financially it's been a different story, with MacNair citing factors like the need for good weather to sell tickets and a ballpark that — due to the delayed light rail line — is largely accessible only to fans with vehicles.
The new agreement means that instead of being the sole leaseholder, the team will now rent the ballpark from the city "just like anybody else would," said Kavan Young, the Champions' manager of media relations.
While current owner Miles Wolff — who is also the Can-Am League's commissioner — is looking for new blood to take over the team for the 2020 season, Young said that Champions fans shouldn't be alarmed.
The club intends to remain in Ottawa until at least 2023, Young said, as per the terms of the new arrangement.
"He still has a part in the Can-Am league. He still wants to see this team here in Ottawa," Young said.
Before city staff agreed to the new arrangement, they set up a repayment schedule for the Champions, with the club expected to pay approximately $200,000 of the outstanding rent bill by the end of September 2019.
Switching from a lease to a permit-based agreement for the team means the city will lose approximately $200,000 this year.
To offset that loss, MacNair said the city will reduce the custodial, maintenance and repair support it provides to the stadium to match the level it provides other sports fields.
The city will also consider leasing the stadium for community sports and special events as a way to generate additional income.
The Champions play Saturday in Trois-Rivières, Que., returning for a home game on Canada Day.
With files from Trevor Pritchard