Goldeyes owner Sam Katz signs lease for Ottawa baseball stadium, but says Winnipeg team staying put

Goldeyes owner and former Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz has partnered with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group for a 10-year lease of the Ottawa Baseball Stadium — but he maintains the Ottawa deal shouldn’t be read as a sign he plans to move Winnipeg’s baseball team.

“My intention has never, ever been for the Winnipeg Goldeyes to leave Winnipeg — and it is still not,” Katz told CBC News late Tuesday afternoon.

The deal comes as Katz is locked in a years-long negotiation with the City of Winnipeg for a new lease on Shaw Park, the home field of the baseball team he owns.

Katz, who has been working on getting a lease agreement for the Ottawa stadium for several months, says he’s in communication with other leagues to get a team in Ottawa, and something could be confirmed “in the very very near future.”

Katz’s partner in the new stadium lease deal, the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, owns the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks and the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s.

The lease agreement for the stadium in Ottawa was outlined in a memo from that city’s general manager of planning, Stephen Willis, to Ottawa’s city council.

The 10-year lease charges Katz and his partners $125,000 per year, but obliges them to pay arrears of $473,000 owed to the city by the previous stadium operator.

The lease agreement “allows the leaseholder to focus on building a profitable business venture, which includes hosting professional minor league baseball games as part of the Frontier League or a league of similar calibre.”

The group  will be exempt from municipal taxes and the city of Ottawa will be responsible for “all capital lifecycle maintenance and repairs.”

Katz calls the difference between the lease deal in Ottawa and what the city of Winnipeg wants for Shaw Park “pretty much night and day.”

Goldeyes owner Sam Katz says the lease for the Ottawa stadium is ‘pretty much night and day different’ from what the City of Winnipeg expects for renting Shaw Park. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The Goldeyes owner says there is approximately an $800,000 gap between what Ottawa is charging for leasing the 10,332-seat Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton Park — also known as the Ottawa Baseball Stadium — and what Winnipeg wants for Shaw Park.

Still, Katz says he wants the Goldeyes to remain in Winnipeg.

“The intention, quite simply, is to hope that council realizes the value of the Goldeyes in the city and we can get something done,” Katz said. “We’ve been doing this for five years — it’s time to get it to closure.”

On Monday, Winnipeg city council’s executive policy committee postponed a vote on the city’s most recent lease offer for Shaw Park in order to review financial records provided by the Goldeyes.

The current lease, which expires in three years, charges the Goldeyes $1 per year.

The city has offered a 15-year lease for Shaw Park that would see the team pay annual rent of $75,000 in the first five years, $85,000 in years the following five years, and $95,000 in the final years. 

Katz has said publicly there is a time factor in getting a deal done in Winnipeg, as the Goldeyes’ league — the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball — needs him to commit to another five-year term. A lease agreement is part of that contract.

A spokesperson for Brian Bowman said the Winnipeg mayor did not have a comment on the agreement Katz signed in Ottawa.

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