Goldeyes, city heading into extra innings with stadium lease
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe:
Monthly Digital Subscription
$4.75 per week*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.
The Winnipeg Goldeyes’ stadium lease agreement with the city has hit another snag in its years-long run to home plate.
Months of heated debate in 2020 resulted in a motion from council to reduce rent payments and extend tax grants for Shaw Park — the home of the American Association of Professional Baseball club — in its next 15-year lease, which passed with a 12-4 vote.
Now, four proposed amendments to that lease agreement have appeared on the agenda for the June 1 standing policy committee meeting on property and development.
The team’s current 25-year lease is set to expire July 28.
The amendments listed in the agenda are: a clarification of the primary use definition of the stadium to include hosting entertainment events; adjusting the final year’s rent payments to December 2038 rather than July 2038; including a previously agreed-upon amendment to the lease allowing the Goldeyes to be exempt from the entertainment tax; and including a provision in the lease that notes if the city takes back some of its parking lot to use for rapid transit, there would be some reduction in the Goldeyes’ lease payments.
Coun. Brian Mayes, who first proposed the motion in 2020, said two of the four amendments are fixing mistakes made on the city’s end, and the others are a result of negotiations between the city and the Goldeyes.
“I thought we had the thing across the finish line. Unfortunately, we didn’t,” said Mayes (St. Vital).
“And some of that’s on us, some of that is bargaining continued with the Goldeyes over a couple of clauses, but hopefully now we’ve got enough to get it finalized.”
The new lease agreement was controversial at the time, and its detractors, including then-mayor Brian Bowman and councillors Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry), Matt Allard (St. Boniface) and Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre) argued the team was not being transparent enough in why it needed financial support from taxpayers.
By that point, there had been years of negotiations and a looming threat the team would leave the city.
Gilroy said those concerns have still not been addressed.
“How much are they actually bringing in? We really don’t know,” she said. “So those are the questions I’ll be looking for when this comes up.”
Mayes said he is concerned that the amendments will open further negotiations on either side, resulting in the current lease expiring without an agreement.
“I’d like the Goldeyes to stay. The Goldeyes, I think, may still be seeking a revision as to whether the lease will be with the Goldeyes or with the parent company, Riverside. But back a few years ago, we had said, ‘We’re going to do this with the Goldeyes,’” he said.
“So I’m hoping we can just get this thing approved. I’m sure there will be some debates.”
Mayor Scott Gillingham was one of the 12 votes in favour of the new lease in 2020.
Goldeyes owner and former mayor Sam Katz said he hoped the amendments would pass quickly.
“For two years now, this has been going back and forth. So hopefully, it will all be cleared up, and it will move forward through the process,” he said, adding he plans to see how the standing policy committee’s meeting plays out and go from there.
“We own the ballpark right now, but that ends July (28). So obviously, timing is important. But in the end, whatever will be, will be decided by council.”
The new lease sees the Goldeyes paying annual rent of $25,000 for the first five years, $50,000 for the next five and $75,000 for the last five. That is less than the original proposal from the city, which began at $75,000 and capped out at $95,000. The current lease expiring in July is $1 per year.
Mayes called the situation “very frustrating.”
“I have concerns that it might not get through council, and then where are we when the lease runs out in July? I assume the team will finish off this year at least,” he said.
The amendments will require a full council approval to move forward, meaning they will have to go through the property and development committee, the executive policy committee and council.
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.