Having struck out in its bid to bring an affiliated professional baseball team to Ottawa, the city is returning to the league that played in its underused stadium for a year before folding.
© File photo
Ottawa Stadium is located east of downtown on Coventry Road.
City staff are recommending council approve a bid from the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball to lease the Ottawa Stadium. Ottawa previously had a team, the Rapidz, in that organization’s Can-Am league but they folded after just one season in 2008.
The city has been looking for a major new tenant to take over the lease at the facility just east of downtown for the better part of Jim Watson’s term as mayor.
His preference was to convince a Double-A team to move to the city and become part of the farm system for a Major League Baseball organization. That would allow the city to get a return on the money it is spending to maintain the facility.
Councillors voted in June to take one more swing at bringing an affiliated team to the city. That came after staff spent a year negotiating, unsuccessfully, with three different ownership groups.
However that no longer appears to be a possibility.
The city received a bid from a team that wanted to bring Double-A team, it said in a press release, but it deemed the request for an “up-front capital investment” of $40 million to be too expensive.
“I am pleased that this challenging two-year process is coming to fruition,” said Mr. Watson in a statement. “Our goal was to secure a long-term professional baseball tenant for this important purpose-built facility, and do so while getting the best value for taxpayers.”
The municipality has been looking for a new tenant for the stadium ever since it declined to renew the lease for the last baseball team, the Ottawa Fat Cats of the Intercounty Baseball League, to play there. The stadium has since sat largely empty and underused.
The city also has big plans for the area surrounding the facility. It wants to redevelop some of the parking around the site with new buildings to help pay for the renovations that would be necessary to improve the look and feel of the stadium.
The press release announcing the return of the Can-Am baseball league did not make clear how much money staff recommended the city spend on fixing up the facility for the new team.
It promised to spend $5.7 million when it was trying to woo Double-A baseball teams, but the bidders told staff that was well short of the $10 to $30 million they believed was necessary to get them interested.
City councillors will consider staff’s recommendation about the Can-Am bid at a committee meeting on October 1. If they vote in favour, it will then go to a full meeting of city council for final approval a week later.
The team would begin playing at the stadium in 2015 if the offer is approved, the press release said.