Which Eastern League team is heading north of the border to Ottawa’s sure-to-be-renamed Ottawa Stadium? Well, that’s the 64-Million Canadian Dollar Question.
According to the Ottawa Citizen, the city of Ottawa has announced that it has reached a deal in principle with a Double-A Eastern League team to relocate to Ottawa and sign a 10-year lease, perhaps as soon as the 2013 season.
However, Eastern League president Joe McEacharn says that while the league has been in exploratory discussions about moving a team there, any sort of deal is far from complete. A team moving there for the 2013 season would be overly optimistic because of the amount of work that needs to be done to make Ottawa Stadium playable, McEacharn said.
“Even if we were to announce (a deal) tomorrow, I think you’re up against it (for 2013),” McEacharn said. “There is a tremendous amount of work to be done. We’ve done some exploration and will continue to do some exploration and we’ll go through the process. If at some point there is a decision to try and relocate a club, we’ll look at it then. As of now, we’re planning our 2013 season as the way we are set up now.”
The City of Ottawa paints a different picture in its release. Through Beacon Sports Capital Partners, the city has reached an agreement on a lease with a team as well as funding to renovate the ballpark. The city and Beacon plan to invest roughly $5 million each to make the ballpark suitable for minor league baseball.
“This is an important milestone towards bringing professional baseball back to the City of Ottawa for the enjoyment of all residents,” Ottawa mayor Jim Watson said in the release.
McEacharn says the ballpark will require “significant improvements” and says the league has “engaged in some discussions to see if that is a feasible opportunity for an Eastern League team.
“There are many steps along the way and a lot of hard work to do. And we have had some productive conversations, but that’s it . . .
“We would require a contemporary facility with all of the player development needs of our major league partners as well as the ability to be a financially viable, stable and long-term asset in the community and minor league baseball. The stadium needs a lot of work, but there is a structure in place and a good infrastructure in place. It can be done, but it requires millions of dollars.”
A representative from Beacon Sports declined to comment, citing a confidentiality agreement with the city until it is brought before the city council for a vote scheduled on Feb. 22. Peter Radke, a manager in the City of Ottawa’s real estate partnerships development office who has been working on the request for offers process for Ottawa Stadium, said he could not name the team in negotiations for the ballpark due to a confidentiality agreement with the Eastern League.
Radke said that only one team is being represented by Beacon Sports and negotiating with the city.