Owner Miles Wolff is working to sell the Ottawa Champions (independent; Can-Am League), a move that comes after a season that included the termination of the club’s original lease.
Over the summer, Ottawa officials terminated the Champions’ RCGT Park lease while both sides moved forward with an agreement that allowed the club to continue operations on a per-hour arrangement. The Champions had been committed to the facility under a 10-year lease since their 2015 launch, but the agreement was terminated by the city earlier this year after the team fell C$418,942 in arrears. Ultimately, the Champions were able to play out the season under those terms, but it appears that the organization will soon be operating under new ownership, as Wolff has confirmed that he is actively working to sell the team.
There is not a final agreement in place, but Wolff says that a pair of groups are interested in purchasing the Champions and continuing operations in Ottawa. The sale could come together soon, as Wolff hopes to have something in place in next two or three weeks so that the Can-Am League will known if it can include the Champions in its plans for the 2020 season. More from the Ottawa Citizen:
“I really have to have it sold in the next two or three weeks. Both for me and for the league. The league has to know for preparing schedules and other things,” he said.
Wolff said he’s in talks with a couple of groups, one of which he categorized as “very, very interested” in the team. He won’t say whether the prospects are Ottawa-based but said both want to stay in Ottawa.
“I’m basically selling the club for debt,” Wolff said. Essentially, the buyers would have to assume the $400,000 or so the club owes the City of Ottawa for back rent on RCGT stadium.
Although Wolff has expressed confidence that the Champions can continue operations under the current lease arrangement, it appears that city officials could look to draw up different terms with new ownership. Among the goals of a new lease could be making the facility usable for more non-baseball events, while giving the city greater flexibility in planning redevelopment for the area surrounding the ballpark. (The ballpark site has been floated by city officials as a potential location for new housing.)
For the time being, city officials are discussing a plan to vet the financial outlook of any new ownership group, measure its ability to enter into a long-term lease, and open discussions about more non-baseball events at RCGT Park. A motion laying out those ideas was proposed at a city council committee meeting this week, and could be approved later this month. From the Ottawa Citizen:
In the end, Coun. Laura Dudas proposed a motion to council with a number of caveats for baseball at RCGT park, including meeting with the new owners to review their financial viability. That would include the group’s capacity to enter into a seven- to 10-year lease with a proviso the city would be able to redevelop strategic parts of the stadium lands once LRT is fully implemented. The motion called for city staff to negotiate the lease before the start of the 2020 season and report back to council for approval. The motion also urged councillors, “local and national community groups and stakeholders” to identify opportunities for increased community usage of the stadium.
Council is to vote on the proposal Sept. 25.
Mayor Jim Watson said after the committee meeting he wants to see baseball continue at the stadium and make sure the facility has a long future.
RCGT Park first opened as JetForm Park in 1993 for the Ottawa Lynx (Class AAA; International League), before hosting multiple independent clubs following the Lynx’s relocation to Allentown, PA after the 2007 season.