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It’s official: Eastern League to Ottawa in 2013

Eastern LeagueThe reports were true: Conditional upon various baseball approvals, we should see the move of a Class AA Eastern League team to Ottawa Stadium for the 2013 season.

Boston-based Beacon Sports has been negotiating a 10-year lease for Ottawa Stadium, the former home of the Ottawa Lynx (Class AAA; International League). The ballpark would be renovated, with capacity going down to $8 million or so; the city will pay $5.7 million for improvements, while Beacon Sports will pay $3 million for a new scoreboard and improvements in player-development facilities (clubhouses, etc.). Including lease payments, Beacon Sports is committing $5.5 million during the 10-year lease.

Here’s the full press release from the city of Ottawa:

The City of Ottawa has reached an agreement in principle with a private sector proponent for the Ottawa Stadium that will be recommended to the City’s Finance and Economic Development Committee in a report to be issued later today.

On November 9, 2011, staff presented a report to City Council outlining the process to issue a Request for Offers (RFO) to lease the Ottawa Stadium for long-term baseball use. With Council’s approval, an RFO was issued on November 15, 2011 and closed on December 12, 2011.

The City’s desired outcome for this “best offers to lease” process was to secure a long-term tenant for the baseball field with a valid business plan involving a professional or semi-professional baseball franchise, subsequently minimizing the City’s financial resources directed to the stadium facility. A Fairness Commissioner was retained to ensure the openness, transparency, impartiality and objectivity of the process.

Staff today tabled a report with the results of the RFO process, which recommends that the City negotiate a long-term lease for the use of the stadium with Beacon Sports Capital Partners as the authorized representative for a stipulated professional baseball franchise that is a member of the AA Eastern League of Minor League Baseball. This could potentially mean the return of AA baseball to Ottawa as early as the spring of 2013.

“This is an important milestone towards bringing professional baseball back to the City of Ottawa for the enjoyment of all residents,” said Mayor Jim Watson. “Returning pro ball to Ottawa, will allow the City to preserve this important purpose-built facility, maximize the use of an existing City asset and provide an additional recreation venue for our residents. It also permits us to minimize the City’s financial resources being directed to the facility over the long-term.”

In the proposed deal, Beacon Sports proposes a 10-year lease term with two five-year extension options for an AA member club of the Eastern League Minor League Baseball to play at the Ottawa Stadium The governance rules of the Eastern League preclude the acknowledgment of a specific franchise and potential Major League affiliation until approvals for the relocation and designation have been sought and secured.

Beacon Sports is proposing to invest approximately $2,000,000 into the facility for player development improvements and would also lease a new scoreboard that is estimated to cost an additional $1,000,000. In addition, both Beacon and the City would invest equally towards a lifecycle reserve fund.

Prior to the spring of 2013, the City would need to invest approximately $2,700,000 for various deferred lifecycle improvements to the stadium as well as $3,000,000 for various improvements to meet Minor League Baseball standards.

The City has secured an increase in base rent from $108,000 to $257,000 per annum for the initial 10-year term and for the first five-year extension option. This level of rent represents a 240-per-cent annual increase and will contribute significantly towards recovering various start-up costs in order to prepare the stadium for the spring of 2013.

In total, the City will invest $5.7 in capital cost and Beacon Sports will invest $5,500,000 so that baseball can begin at the Stadium in 2013.

Mayor Watson also wishes to commend Councillors Peter Clark, the ward councillor for the facility, as well as Councillors Rick Chiarelli and Bob Monette, for their hard work over the past six months in helping to move this development forward.

“This has been a real team effort involving my Council colleagues,” said Mayor Watson. “The City remains cautiously optimistic that we will be able to secure a major league affiliation – the final major hurdle in bringing baseball back to the City.”

“This is an important facility for the residents of Rideau-Rockcliffe and for residents across the City,” said Councillor Peter Clark.” If there is a cost-effective way to preserve the Ottawa Stadium for its original purpose, then of course I will be supporting the staff report.”

“I am pleased to see that City staff is recommending that the City move to finalize an agreement for the long-term use of the baseball stadium,” said Orleans Ward Councillor Bob Monette. “I have always argued that this exceptional City asset should not be demolished and that the City should do what it can, within a responsible fiscal framework, to bring pro baseball back to the Nation’s Capital. I will continue to work with the Mayor and my Council colleagues on the important next steps that remain to make this project a reality.”

College Ward Councillor Rick Chiarelli, a long-time proponent of baseball in Ottawa, is also delighted to hear that staff will be recommending a long-term lease to Council. “I will continue to be involved in these efforts and also will be voting to maintain the stadium’s original purpose,” he said. “This agreement is more desirable than mothballing this valuable public facility. I am convinced that a new team, under solid management, could market pro baseball as an exciting form of family entertainment for the residents of Ottawa. I also support the decision to protect an important asset in which the people of Ottawa have invested $17 million to build and will continue to have to invest in lifecycle to maintain the stadium over the lifetime of the facility.”

The report will be considered by the Finance and Economic Development Committee on February 16, 2012, and by City Council on February 22, 2012.

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