Even though the Winnipeg Goldeyes didn’t provide every financial detail the city demanded in the lead-up to a vote on the team’s next stadium lease, some councillors say it is time to strike a deal.
Council has postponed its vote on a proposed 15-year lease since July, directing City of Winnipeg staff to first seek more financial information from the Goldeyes and Riverside Park Management (the company that leases Shaw Park on behalf of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball team.) On Sept. 21, the executive policy committee voted to delay the issue a further 30 days.
Staff were also directed to report on how proposed city subsidies, which would provide millions of dollars over the term of the new lease, would be used by the team.
Winnipeg's interim chief financial officer said Wednesday the Goldeyes didn’t provide enough detail for the city to assess that.
"Certainly, we don’t have the full picture," said Paul Olafson.
The Goldeyes revealed the downtown site’s parking revenues reached $311,386 in 2019, before income taxes. Without that, the team says it would have lost $19,526 that year, said Olafson.
The team said it spent $741,892 on its facility last year, and earns about $45,000 per year from a large sign on its land.
Coun. Scott Gillingham (St. James), finance committee chairman, said he expects council has now received all the information it’s likely to get from a private company. Gillingham said he’ll likely vote in favour of the lease.
"We ultimately have to make a decision on whether or not we want Goldeyes baseball in Winnipeg. And I, for one, would like to see the Goldeyes continue to play," he said.
If approved as is, the new lease would provide the Goldeyes annual grants that equal the amount of entertainment tax the club pays each year, plus the municipal portion of property taxes for the ballpark until Nov. 14, 2029.
The proposal would also replace the team’s current $1-per-year city lease with an annual rent of $75,000 in years one to five, $85,000 in years six to 10, and $95,000 in years 11 to 15.
Sam Katz, owner and president of the Goldeyes, said his team provided all financial information "that is not proprietary to the operation," and hopes council will vote on the lease soon.
"Ultimately, decisions need to be made and, as such, the future of the Goldeyes is in council’s hands," said Katz, a former mayor of Winnipeg (2004-10).
Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) said he hopes council will now move to promptly accept the lease, to help keep the team in Winnipeg, the city it has called home since 1994.
"If they leave, the trade we’re getting is an empty baseball stadium that we, the city, have to maintain and a parking lot. We (would) lose this franchise that’s bringing in a couple hundred-thousand people a year into downtown," said Mayes.
However, even if council gives final approval to the current lease proposal, the team plans to push for two additional changes to the deal.
Katz said the tax grants must continue throughout the entire lease, instead of ending in 2029. He also insists the lease must permanently include a parking lot at 41 Westbrook Ave., which the city hasn’t guaranteed would occur during possible lease extensions.
"Without those two (items) as part of an equation, there’s nothing on the table for the Goldeyes to survive," said Katz.
The Goldeyes’ current lease expires July 27, 2023.
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.