Sam Katz is bringing professional baseball to Ottawa.
The Winnipeg Goldeyes owner, and former Winnipeg mayor, has teamed up with Ottawa Sport and Entertainment Group (OSEG) to sign a 10-year lease to operate Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton Park — the former home of the Can-Am League’s Ottawa Champions.
The plan is to have a new professional baseball team playing out of the ballpark in the nation’s capital next summer, although it hasn’t been revealed which league they’ll be playing in.
Katz said he was approached about the Ottawa situation a while ago and believes it’s a good opportunity. He insists it has nothing to do with the fact the Goldeyes and their lease for Shaw Park with the City of Winnipeg is set to expire in 2023. The two sides have been in negotiations on a new lease for several years, as the current one only charges the Goldeyes $1 per year.
"Let me try and make this real clear: We put blood, sweat and tears into bringing baseball back to Winnipeg after a quarter-of-a-century absence and then building a ballpark against all obstacles," Katz told the Free Press Tuesday night.
"Our goal is for the Winnipeg Goldeyes to continue playing in Shaw Park for another 50 years. By the same token, in the end, it’ll be up to city council to make that decision. But I know what our goal is."
Katz said he’s prepared to own baseball teams in two cities.
"I have friends who have maybe six or eight teams. It’s a matter of having an organization that has the right people," said Katz. "Once you have the right people in place, things move forward. If you don’t have the right people, then that’s a different story."
The Goldeyes’ lease deal will be discussed at city council next month. The city is considering a 15-year lease proposal that would 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 Fish would also receive annual grants that would cover the cost of the entertainment tax the team pays each year ($325,000 in 2019) and the municipal portion of property taxes on the ballpark ($43,100).
As for the Ottawa lease, Katz and his group will make a yearly payment of $125,000 to the City of Ottawa. The agreement also has the City of Ottawa receiving a cheque for $473,000, the amount that was owed to the city by the previous ballpark operator, from Katz and Co.
"In Winnipeg, we pay property taxes and business taxes. In Ottawa, there’s no property taxes, no business taxes. In Winnipeg, we pay all the utilities. In Ottawa, they pay all the utilities. In Winnipeg, we take care of the field maintenance. In Ottawa, they take care of the field maintenance... And we don’t have to put up $13 million to build a park like we did here in Winnipeg. So, you can compare apples with apples," said Katz.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.