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Will affiliated ball return to Ottawa?

Ottawa LynxOttawa 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.

UPDATE: Not surprisingly, the Bulldog — an unabashed proponent of bringing pro baseball to Ottawa — says all is well.

RELATED STORIES: Beacon makes it official: no Ottawa EL team in 2013Fisher Cats, Blue Jays extend PDCBlue Jays expected to re-up with Fisher CatsLocal group launches season-ticket drive for Ottawa baseballOttawa ballpark will sport artificial turf — per request of parent team?Ottawa committee approves $5.7 million in ballpark improvementsBlue Jays GM: We’re not shifting affiliation to OttawaIt’s official: Eastern League to Ottawa in 2013Report: Eastern League to Ottawa in 2013Ottawa puts off ballpark decisionOttawa baseball bid losing steam?No, Canada; Group seeks Ottawa Stadium lease for 2013 and beyondOttawa out of running for SWB Yankees — but in line for affiliated ballNY Yankees making moves with minor-league teamsFat Cats owners may seek affiliated team for OttawaValcke: Baseball can work in OttawaOttawa: Ballpark should be converted to concert venueAffiliated ball may be returning to Ottawa


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