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Valcke: Baseball can work in Ottawa

Ottawa Fat CatsDespite a poor record of Triple-A and independent baseball succeeding in Canada’s capital, Tom Valcke says that Ottawa Stadium is a gem and should not be renovated as a concert venue — rather, it should be pitched as an MiLB short-season-A home while continuing to host the Ottawa Fat Cats.

Valcke is a well-known and well-respected name in Canadian baseball: he’s president and CEO of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and the former head of Baseball Canada, so when he weighs in with an opinion, what he says should be seriously considered. He did so in a 1,400-word open letter to Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, where he expressed disappointment with the city’s recommendation to make changes to the ballpark.

You’ve got to give Valcke credit: instead of arguing that the 10,000-seat ballpark should be preserved as the home of the Fat Cats — a semi-pro Intercounty Baseball League team that drew 25,611 fans in 11 games last summer — he made the argument for short-season baseball, something that would be perfect for the Canadian city. The NY-Penn League season is scheduled for the prime summer months of June, July and August: prime summer season in Ottawa.

Whether it makes a huge different remains to be seen. There are many in Ottawa city government who want to see the ballpark gone as a sporting facility, and the issue will be discussed in coming months. Given there’s more than one NY-Penn League franchise financially struggling, we’re a little surprised to see little discussion of Ottawa as a potential team home: It’s a large and dynamic market, it certainly is close to the NY-Penn League footprint, and there’s a lovely ballpark with an affordable lease. It does sound like it will take affiliated ball to save the ballpark: IBL baseball is lovely and historic, but 18 games a year won’t generate the kinds of revenues to keep the ballpark open.

RELATED STORIES: Ottawa: Ballpark should be converted to concert venue; Affiliated ball may be returning to Ottawa


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