The Winnipeg Goldeyes are off in North Dakota, playing a coronavirus-shortened season out of a pair of hub cities in the United States, but the team’s future is the subject of much debate here at home.
Goldeyes owner and former Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz says he needs closure on a five-year campaign for a new lease at the team’s home field, Shaw Park, if Winnipeg wants to keep the team around.
Katz told 680 CJOB he’s required to sign a five-year affiliation agreement with the American Association, the Goldeyes’ league, in order for play to continue after this truncated season — but he can’t do so until the lease issue is sorted out first.
“This October, we need to sign a five-year affiliation agreement, and we can’t sign that right now,” said Katz on Monday.
“If we don’t have an affiliation agreement, we don’t play — there’s no Goldeyes, there’s no baseball in Winnipeg.”
The City of Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Goldeyes have for years been trying to come to terms on a new deal for the stadium — which sits on city-owned land — before the current 25-year lease expires in 2023.
Riverside Park Management Inc., the non-profit that manages the park’s property matters, has previously said it wants to reach a deal early to obtain financing to pay for planned capital improvements.
The city’s property, planning and development committee was at an impasse on the issue Monday, voting 2-2 on the deal, which now gets kicked up to City Hall’s executive policy committee without recommendation.
Katz said the cost of the lease — which will be considerably more than the $1 price tag the Goldeyes have paid in past years — isn’t at issue.
The proposed new 15-year lease agreement would see the team pay $75,000 annually for the first five years, increasing to $85,000 and then $95,000 for each subsequent five-year period.
“It’s not the fact that what they’re looking for is outrageous,” he said.
“It’s just hard to swallow the fact that you spend $13 million to build this for the city and they give you absolutely zero credit or acknowledgement for it.”
Katz said resolving issues related to a parking lot on the stadium site, as well as entertainment tax revenues, is crucial to coming to an understanding, and that he’s running out of time before he’s required to re-up with the league.
“My wife tells me I’m pretty resilient, so I’m not sure what the breaking point is exactly,” said Katz. “But I know it’s become extremely frustrating that this has been going on for five years now.
“All we want is closure once and for all.”
And if the team can’t sign an affiliation agreement, its owner says he’s prepared for that, too.
“It won’t be a pleasant day, but it is what it is if those are the circumstances.”
The matter is on the agenda for the mayor’s executive policy committee’s next meeting Wednesday.