THE city has yet to strike a deal on the next Winnipeg Goldeyes stadium lease, as the clock ticks towards a deadline expected next month.
Council’s executive policy committee postponed its vote on the proposed 15-year lease agreement for Shaw Park for an additional month Monday — after previously postponing it in July — in order to await a public service report on the independent league baseball team’s financial information first.
Mayor Brian Bowman said the demand for that data reflects an effort to examine the value of city grants for professional sports teams.
"This is the first professional sports team deal that I’ve been asked to weigh in on… What I’ve always wanted to see is greater scrutiny of the deals that we’re providing professional sports teams and an increased level of openness and transparency," Bowman said Monday.
Unless council votes otherwise, EPC is now scheduled to vote on the matter Oct. 20.
The city is considering a new lease proposal that would replace the Goldeyes’ current $1-per-year lease to charge the team 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 team would also receive annual grants that equal the amount of entertainment tax the Goldeyes pay each year ($325,000 in 2019), as well as the municipal portion of property taxes on the ballpark itself ($43,100 in 2019).
Since July, Goldeyes president Sam Katz has warned a lease deal is needed soon to ensure the team can stay in downtown Winnipeg. He said the team needs to secure its stadium space before signing a five-year affiliation agreement with the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. That agreement is expected to take place sometime in October, and would extend past the current lease’s expiry date of July 27, 2023.
Since the city was provided all of the financial information it requested by Sept. 14, Katz said he doesn’t understand why council can’t make a final decision this month.
"I don’t know what more is left to be done. In the end, council will decide if they want the Winnipeg Goldeyes here in the city or not. It’s out of my hands. We’ve done everything we can," he said Monday.
Katz, a former mayor of Winnipeg, also questioned why the city demanded so much detail from the team, noting other businesses and teams have received city investments with far less financial disclosure. That includes incentives previously offered to Starlight Investments, which is proposing to redevelop the Portage Place mall, and True North Sports and Entertainment Ltd., owner of the Winnipeg Jets.
"We have provided council with everything they have asked of us, which no other professional sports team or private-sector business has been asked to do," said Katz.
He said the exact date for the October affiliation agreement isn’t set, but it is required that month. He said it’s not clear if a delay would be possible.
Once the city votes on the new lease, more negotiations may still be needed. Katz has said the team must ensure it receives entertainment tax rebates and retains control over its Westbrook Avenue parking lot throughout any new agreement. The city proposal only guarantees the lease will include the parking lot for 15 years, and the entertainment tax rebates would last until at least Nov. 14, 2029, when a similar deal with True North expires.
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.