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This article was published 7/7/2020 (198 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A NEW stadium lease could soon be struck with the Winnipeg Goldeyes — if the baseball team and city council approve it.

In a new report, city staff propose a 15-year lease agreement for Shaw Park to replace the Goldeyes’ current $1-per-year lease.

Instead, the team would pay an annual rent of $75,000 in Years 1 to 5, $85,000 in Years 6 to 10, and $95,000 in Years 11 to 15.

The current lease for Shaw Park is set to expire July 27, 2023.

City staff also propose to offer the independent league team annual grants that equal the amount of entertainment tax the club pays each year ($325,000 in 2019), as well as the municipal portion of property taxes on the ballpark itself ($43,100 in 2019).

Those grants would last until Nov. 14, 2029, when a similar deal with Winnipeg Jets/Manitoba Moose owner True North Sports and Entertainment Ltd. expires.

Coun. Cindy Gilroy, chairwoman of council’s property and development committee, said little about the proposal Tuesday, other than to note it would require millions of dollars of taxpayer support over its term.

"The proposed agreement represents a multimillion-dollar subsidy for a professional sports team, so I will be scrutinizing it thoroughly throughout the committee process," Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre) said in a brief emailed statement.

Meanwhile, Goldeyes president/owner Sam Katz said he’s concerned the report overlooks the team’s $13-million investment in its $20-million ballpark’s original price. Shaw Park opened in 1999.

Katz, a former Winnipeg mayor, said that investment helped spark the initial $1-per-year lease and should be acknowledged within any new deal. "We think we’ve paid our fair share."

He also called the proposed tax grant "pretty standard," noting the same benefit is provided to the Jets of the NHL and Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL. However, he expressed concern about the clause that specifies those grants would last only until 2029.

"If that expires, the Goldeyes would expire as well. The business model doesn’t work that way," said Katz.

The baseball team is also concerned the lease proposal includes a parking lot at 41 Westbrook Ave. for its initial 15-year term, but not necessarily during two optional five-year extensions.

Katz said the team wants to keep its current home but must ensure a viable business model, especially after COVID-19 is forcing it to play all American Association of Independent Professional Baseball games in the United States this season.

"There’s no secret what we’re going through right now. We’ll have zero revenue for 20 months… That’s hard to overcome, let alone survive," he said.

Gord Chappell, a real estate administrator for the city, said the new rent amount was chosen based on an appraisal. Chappell said the city also wants to keep its options open for some parts of the downtown stadium site, such as potentially redeveloping the Westbrook parking lot after the initial lease ends.

"We want to maintain that right to potentially redevelop that lot if it becomes available. Otherwise, it very well might be included in a future option to extend (the lease)," he said Tuesday.

Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital), a former Winnipeg property and development chairman, said he believes the lease proposal offers a fair deal for the city, and plans to support the deal.

"For the next 20 years or so, this is the best use for the land, and it’s a good amenity for downtown," said Mayes.

"You have people saying we shouldn’t subsidize this. Well, we subsidize the Jets a whole lot more."

Council’s property and development committee will vote on the report July 13.


Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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