Sam Katz signs professional baseball lease in Ottawa; Winnipeg Goldeyes future uncertain

Winnipeg Goldeyes owner Sam Katz. Josh Arason / Global News

Winnipeg Goldeyes owner Sam Katz and the City of Ottawa have signed a deal to bring professional baseball back to Canada’s capital city.

“I’m very happy that Mayor (Jim) Watson and council chose our group to bring professional baseball back to Ottawa,” Katz told 680 CJOB in an exclusive interview Tuesday afternoon.

Katz said there was an expression of interest brought forward by a number of groups, but ultimately his was approved.

“There’s a lot of work to be done at this stage of the game now that our lease has been approved,” he said.

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There is no plan yet on what league the team would play in, but Katz said he has had interest from multiple levels.

“It can be an affiliation of any of the leagues,” he said. “Two of the leagues have approached us already. So we’ll figure this out very, very quickly.”

It’s unclear what this means for the Winnipeg Goldeyes and if Katz could pull the plug on the team, but he said this is not a threat to try to get a new lease deal through with the City of Winnipeg.

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg Goldeyes host last season’s champions in their home opener'
Winnipeg Goldeyes host last season’s champions in their home opener

“I don’t threaten, never threaten,” he said. “What I am saying to you is we have a lease for a ballpark in Ottawa.”

“It’s a 10,000-person lease, we don’t have to put up $13 million, don’t have to pay property taxes, business taxes and the city pays the utilities and maintenance of the field.”

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But the deal comes on the heels of five years of negotiations between Katz and the City for a new lease for Shaw Park where the Goldeyes play.

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.

The Goldeyes current lease charges just $1 per year and is set to expire in three years.

The latest proposal in July, was looking for a new 15-year lease for Shaw Park.

It would have the team pay a yearly rent of $75,000 in years one through five, $85,000 in years six to 10, and $95,000 in years 11 to 15. It also was looking for two five-year possible extensions after those 15 years.

The new proposal is also looking to eliminate all previous municipal tax breaks and transfer the team’s two parking lots – along with their revenue – to the civic government.

An earlier city report said the team receives more than $700,000 in annual tax and parking subsidies.

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It also said the tax refunds amounted to around $342,000 of lost city revenue in 2018 alone.

However, Katz has previously the Goldeyes also pay its share, including business taxes and related property taxes, worth more than $5 million over the course of the deal. He also said some years, the team loses money.

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.

Katz was asked if it came down to it if he was prepared to own two baseball teams to which he answered, “I always keep an open mind.”

“We brought professional baseball back to Winnipeg, we built Shaw Park with $13 million of private money,” Katz said.

“At this stage of the game it’s in the hands of city council to decide if they want to keep professional baseball in Winnipeg.”

The lease deal will be discussed at city council next month. The discussion around Shaw Park was pushed over to council after Mayor Brian Bowman said they didn’t have all the paperwork, but Katz said they have provided council with everything they asked for.

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-With files from Richard Cloutier

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