The Ottawa Champions (independent; Can-Am League) lease for RCGT Park has been terminated by the city after the team fell $418,942 in arrears, but the team will continue to operate on a per-hour arrangement in the meantime.
When the Can-An League launched in Ottawa for the second time in 2015 after the demise of the Ottawa Rapidz, the league signed a 10-year lease for the former Triple-A ballpark at what would normally be considered a high lease for independent baseball: $108,000 in annual rent, $250,000 annually to cover ballpark operating costs, a 50 percent cut of naming rights over $200,000 annually, 10 percent on concession sales over $1.2 million, and $1 for each parking sale. (All prices are in Canadian dollars.) Part of the high lease terms was that the Can-Am League was competing with Minor League Baseball for the market, and the city decided to work with the Can-Am League instead of entertaining an offer from Mandalay Baseball Properties to bring a Double-A team to Ottawa. With sales projections not met and the team in serious arrears, the city made the decision to terminate the lease, call in the $108,000 letter of credit issued when the Champions first signed a lease, and work out a payment deal that calls for a $200,000 payment by the end of season as well as payments extended to 2023.
However, the Champions will continue to play at the ballpark and pay an hourly rate ($128.25/hour, $48.35/more for lights) plus $760 per game for city services. With these adjustment, team owner Miles Wolff says he expects the Champions to continue play for several more years. From the Ottawa Citizen:
Miles Wolff said the club has been talking with the city for nearly two years about the terms of the stadium lease to find some way to make it more “livable.”
“The rent is well over $400,000 a year, which is difficult to live with and so we’ve been looking at, is there another way to do it?” Wolff said Friday, shortly after the city published a memo that revealed the end of the stadium lease….
The Champions aren’t reaching the projections in the club’s business case, the city says, attributing financial setbacks to an entertainment product that’s highly weather dependent, the competition in the local entertainment market and the car-centric nature of stadium access.
So far this season the Champions are averaging 1,586 fans per game, according to the league’s website. That’s down from the 1,831 fans per game in 2018 and the 1,971 fans per game in 1,971. The fact that the city has openly discussed tearing down RCGT Park to make way for new housing probably isn’t helping things, either. Meanwhile, Ottawa is a crowded sports market with a CFL team, USL Championship soccer and NHL hockey.
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