After Ryan-Sanders Baseball walked away from a deal to bring a Class AA Eastern League team to Ottawa, a broker tries again to find a potential owner — but with the economics of the deal on the daunting side, that’s not an easy task.
There has been plenty of folks willing to look at the economics of a proposed deal brokered by Rick Billings of Beacon Capital, calling for the purchase and move of the Binghamton Mets to Ottawa. The deal calls for a fairly high yearly rent, a $5 million investment in the ballpark and a purchase price between $11M and $13M for the B-Mets. Add in working capital (at least a million dollars before the first pitch is thrown), and you’re looking at an investment of at least $17 million.
That upfront investment is steep; we’ve been told Ryan-Sanders ownership worked hard to reduce that number, to no avail. Billings is now back shopping the deal to Canadian and American investors (including some other existing MiLB ownership groups perceived to have deep pockets) and working really hard to drum up a bidding war, but so far no one has stepped up with a solid offer, we were told at the Winter Meetings. His assertion to the Bulldog that a team would be profitable with 2,500 fans a game is sheer malarkey: no way an owner can pay down debt and turn a profit drawing a number like that.
There’s also one more reality that tells us a deal is unlikely to happen. An insider with knowledge of the Ottawa situation points out that any Ottawa baseball team would be fourth (at best) in the local sporting economy. First is the Ottawa Senators: the NHL can’t stay on strike forever, and hockey truly rules in Canada’s capital. Next is the CFL: Frank Clair Stadium is being renovated and the CFL is returning. (Interesting note for baseball folks: the former owner of the Ottawa CFL team was none other than Horn Chen.) Third: the Ottawa 67’s, the junior hockey team that’s proven to be a solid draw (6,500 or so a game) despite the presence of NHL in town. The baseball team would then come next but would still face competition from an NASL team setting up shop at Frank Clair. Ottawa is an international city, and pro soccer is expected to be a solid draw.
That makes for an awfully crowded sports landscape, one where anyone investing at least $17M in a venture would be hard-pressed to succeed. Of course, there are owners who care less about the bottom line and more about the prestige and excitement of owning a baseball team; the industry has always attracted folks like that. Billings has already received one extension to work out a deal; we’ll know by March if he was able to sell any of those rich Canadian investors on an ownership deal.
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