A last-minute deal to strike a new Winnipeg Goldeyes’ stadium lease has been approved.
After plenty of heated debate among councillors for several months, Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) proposed a successful motion Thursday that will reduce the rent payments and extend tax grants recently proposed for the team’s next lease.
Council approved the altered lease in a 12-4 vote. Mayor Brian Bowman joined councillors Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry), Matt Allard (St. Boniface) and Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre) to oppose the deal that was supported by the rest of council.
Prior to the vote, Mayes said the new terms should end years of lease negotiations that sparked fears the independent-league minor baseball team could leave the city.
"This would resolve all outstanding issues…. It’s been 5 1/2 years of talks," he said.
Goldeyes owner and former Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz welcomed the decision.
"My overall reaction is that it took a lot of courage, a lot of integrity for all those 12 councillors to support that motion," said Katz. "I can assure you that the Winnipeg Goldeyes and all of our fans are very grateful for that."
He said the team expects to finalize the deal soon, after suggesting the new terms to the city.
"Now it’s just a matter of making sure that the lease reflects everything in there and there’s nothing untoward," Katz said. "This should be it."
The 15-year lease will see the Goldeyes pay annual rent of $25,000 for the first five years, $50,000 for the next five and $75,000 for the final five.
The previous proposal had aimed to instead switch the team’s current $1 annual rent with an increase ranging from $75,000 to $95,000 over that 15-year time period after the current lease expires in 2023.
The Goldeyes will also receive annual grants that equal the amount of entertainment tax the club pays each year ($325,000 in 2019), plus the municipal portion of property taxes for the ballpark ($43,100 in 2019) until Dec. 31, 2038. The previous proposal guaranteed those grants only until Nov. 14, 2029.
The mayor has consistently opposed the lease, arguing the team should share more financial information to justify why it needs help from taxpayers.
"That’s really been my objective, is to try to get as much information as possible to help us determine what the city would be getting for that subsidy," he said.
Prior to the vote, Bowman cast doubt on whether rejecting the lease would have led the Goldeyes to leave Winnipeg, which would also have left the city with an empty downtown stadium.
"I understand it’s not uncommon for professional sports teams to make that threat in the course of negotiations. It may or may not be a legitimate threat," he said.
Mayes and other supporters, however, argued that the potential loss of the team posed a significant risk to the city.
"If they leave, we’ve got a vacant stadium that we now have to maintain or keep boarded or keep locked up somehow, so that’s an additional cost to us," he said.
Mayes described the next lease as the city’s best option.
"This is the cost, I would say, of keeping the Goldeyes here. It’s a good deal for the city," he said.
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.