The future of pro baseball, ANY pro baseball, has reached a crucial stage. If you care about the future of baseball and Lynx stadium, read this letter from the Can-Am League and take appropriate action.
Ottawa is about to lose professional baseball after fifteen years in the city. It shouldn’t happen. It doesn’t need to happen. But it probably will, because a combination of city officials, lawyers, and others are making what should be a simple transition from the International League to the Can-Am League very difficult. Ottawa has the best baseball facility in all of Canada, and it could be showplace for not only the Can-Am League but also the national teams of Baseball Canada, but it will be either transformed or torn down in the next year if common sense does not prevail.
Background. After wildly successful years following the opening of Lynx Stadium in 1993, attendance fell, and in recent years the team has lost money. A combination of poor early operations, losing teams, an excessive schedule and other factors cause the decline, and over the last few years Lynx management has been looking to sell the franchise. A new $40 million stadium is being built in Allentown, PA, and the team has been sold and is moving to that city for the 2008 season.
Lease. The original lease was signed in 1992 by Howard Darwin and was amended in 2000 when the Lynx were bought by Vermont businessman Ray Pecor. The lease runs through the 2009 season. There is a $216,000 penalty to Pecor if he does not operate in 2008 and 2009. However, the lease also stipulates that the Lynx still owe on a promissory note of $2,777,000. According to the Lynx this is interest on the initial stadium construction cost. To build the stadium the city of Ottawa borrowed from the city of Nepean. The principal has been paid off, but this remaining interest is owed to city of Nepean. However, with the fusion of the two cities, the Lynx believe that there is no interest due by the city of Ottawa to Nepean because it would now owe the money to itself.
The Lawsuits. The Lynx have instituted a lawsuit of $10 million against the city of Ottawa because of the parking issue and other portions of the lease not fulfilled. In a meeting in April with the Mayor and City attorney, the Lynx, represented by Ray Pecor and Kyle Bostwick, promised to drop the lawsuit immediately if the city dropped their claim of $2,770,000 for the promissory note. The Can-Am League was present at that meeting to state that they were ready to take over the Lynx’s lease and fulfilling all obligations of the lease other than the promissory note. It is unclear whose position is stronger, but it is certain that if the legal proceedings continue, they will go on for years and legal fees could be half a million dollars and more. The only winners will be the lawyers.
The Can-Am League. The Can-Am League is an independent professional league located in the Northeast U.S. and Québec City. It plays a 94 game schedule, and most baseball observers rate the league as closest to Class AA in affiliated baseball. The league believes it can be very successful in Ottawa for several reasons: (1). the league schedule does not start until late May, cutting out the April and early May dates that killed the Lynx. (2). league members sign their own players, and the emphasis would be on area and Canadian professionals that fans can identify with. (3). the budget for the Can-Am League is considerably less than for the International League. Independent baseball has been very successful in Winnipeg and Québec, and Ottawa, a larger market than either of these cities with a better stadium, should be an equivalent draw.
Baseball Canada. The Can-Am league has had considerable discussions with Baseball Canada about making the Lynx Stadium their home. Offices would be moved to the stadium, and Baseball Canada, without a current home field, would be able to make the stadium their home field. International events and tournaments could be held at the facility, and the stadium would be the centre for baseball in Canada.
Timing. There is little time left to make any of this happen. All of this was proposed in April in order to make for a smooth transition over the summer. Now, time is almost out. The Can-Am League schedule needs to be completed in October. The lawsuit of the Lynx is moving forward. Employees of the Lynx who were ready to work for the Can-Am are looking for other jobs. The Lynx own nearly $1 million in assets in the stadium (concession equipment, furniture for 32 suites, press box equipment, office desks and equipment, ticketing system, etc.). The Lynx have offered this equipment to the Can-Am League free of charge. However, if the lawsuit continues, the Lynx will begin selling off their assets, and it will be almost financially impossible for any baseball club to up-fit a stadium if all the equipment is gone.
Cost. If the Can-Am League is allowed to assume the lease, the cost to the city is nothing. Baseball will continue. However, currently the city is insisting that the Lynx must formally notify them that they are leaving before they can act. The Lynx are prepared to notify the city if the city will assure them that the interest payments are no longer due. The city will not make these assurances. Therefore, the stalemate will drag on, and it will be April when the first game should be scheduled before the Lynx are officially in violation of their lease. In the meantime, no one will occupy the stadium during the winter, and unless the city is prepared to assume these costs, the stadium will deteriorate over this period. The equipment will be gone; there will be no tenant in 2008. Regardless of proposals for domes or other uses, the most likely scenario is that the city will tear down the stadium and a jewel for any municipality will be lost.