Realizing the original lease proposal for a Class AA Eastern League team was totally unrealistic, Ottawa city officials are looking at raising more money locally for Ottawa Stadium upgrades.
The original deal, hammered out by the city and Beacon Sports, called for a team to invest millions to upgrade the ballpark to Double-A standards, with the city putting in $5.7 million. Several operators, including Ryan-Sanders Baseball and Mandalay Baseball Properties, reviewed the numbers and concluded the purchase and move of a team, along with the ballpark upgrades, were simply financially unfeasible. (Yes, we’ve been hammering this point home for months.)
Now, apparently, Ottawa officials have reached the same conclusion. The solution: develop some of the land around Ottawa Stadium to generate revenues for ballpark renovations. That would make MiLB a much more financially feasible proposal while generating some buzz around the ballpark. We’re talking longer-term now; it’s highly unlikely a team now wouldn’t move until 2015.
“What we’re proposing would be not just a ballpark experience. It would be beyond that,” said Joe McEacharn, the president of the Eastern League, the minor league Ottawa hopes to join. However, McEacharn was reluctant to talk about any of the details, saying they’re still being “shaped and reshaped” with every round of discussion. The latest discussions were held in Toronto Friday involving McEacharn, Mayor Jim Watson and his staff, representatives of the Toronto Blue Jays, and potential owners of the Ottawa team.
“I will say that the talks were very constructive. I think we really made some headway into finding a solution that will make this happen,” McEacharn said. It involves “out-of-the-box thinking” on how to finance the stadium renovations. “The talk is around renovations to the ballpark, and where renovations are, economics will follow …. You always start with the money.”
McEacharn then backtracked a bit, saying the goal is to find a long-term, sustainable financial model for the team. “It really starts with a vision, and a plan for long-term success, and then you work back from there to the finances …. The city is having a lot of input in this.”
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