Ottawa would seem to be a great market for affiliated baseball, but issues with the ballpark — and the fairly high cost of bringing it up to modern standards — may end up killing any relocation efforts.
More than one MiLB owner directly told us they’d passed on a plan to move an Eastern League team to Ottawa Stadium, a lease brokered by Beacon Sports. The issue: the high cost of making such a deal work. The issue wasn’t the cost of the team, but rather the millions in ballpark investments required by Ottawa in order to sign a lease.
The numbers are not very compelling. Ottawa is looking at C$5.7 million for basic ballpark upgrades, new equipment and a scoreboard — and a new owner would be expected to spend an additional C$5.5 million. (These numbers don’t seem very realistic: C$1 million has been allocated for a scoreboard, but a really compelling high-def videoboard costs more by the time all costs are considered.) We’re also guessing a whole slew of hidden costs will pop up once a new owner comes in: there are reports that Ottawa Fat Cats players have been living in the suites, for instance. A deadline to make a deal work for the 2013 season passed; 2014 remains a possibility.
But an owner would be looking at least C$20 million by the time the team is purchased and the ballpark is updated, with the lease calling for $257,000 in annual payments. Those numbers are a little extreme for a Class AA Eastern League team and certain not feasible for a short-season NY-Penn League team. To us, the deal struck by Beacon Sports would be good for the broker, Ottawa and the current team owner, less so for the new team owner. Is Ottawa a good enough market to warrant a $20 million investment on a good, not great ballpark? The consensus from current MiLB owners seems to be no, and with no local investors popping up to make a deal, maybe it is time for Ottawa to reconsider a plan to prop up a money-losing facility with city subsidies.
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