Jays farm team in Ottawa? Wait and see

JOHN WILLING, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:30 PM ET

It might not be until the fall that Ottawa learns if a Double-A baseball team can be affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The finance and economic development committee Thursday approved a long-term lease with Beacon Sports Capital Partners, a U.S. firm trying to bring an Eastern League club to the city, without knowing exactly which team would be coming.

The deal, which needs to be ratified by council next Wednesday, would mean the city spends $5.7 million to repair and upgrade the stadium, while Beacon Sports would spend $5.5 million.

Armed with the rules of Major League Baseball, city solicitor Rick O’Connor told the committee that any talk about potential affiliations with minor-league teams when a “player development contact” currently exists could open the municipality up to being sued.

First a team must terminate its existing affiliation contract in September and have it approved by the league.

Only then can teams begin negotiating new affiliations in a 15-day window that lasts until Sept. 30.

While Beacon Sports managing partner Richard Billings wasn’t telling reporters which team he’s eyeing for relocation, it’s largely believed it’s the Binghamton Mets, a team whose affiliation contract with the New York Mets lasts through the upcoming season.

Baseball fans backed the Double-A pitch by speaking to the committee, something that impressed Billings.

“I liked hearing about the interest in bringing baseball back and we’ll see in the next couple of months whether we can make it happen,” Billings said.

Even if council endorses the lease agreement next week, Beacon Sports will have to convince the Eastern League and minor league baseball to approve a team’s relocation. Those organizations will want to see a stadium renovation plan on the table before making a decision.

The rise of one team in Ottawa could mean the demise of another.

The Ottawa Fat Cats’ lease on the stadium ends March 14.

City staff advised against renewing it, but some politicians, like Orleans Coun. Bob Monette, want them to try working around the Fat Cats’ 2012 season.

It’s a big ask since everything from the seats, to the clubhouses, to the field itself is on the renovations list.

City manager Kent Kirkpatrick said it would be a “difficult challenge” and Mayor Jim Watson warned Fat Cats fans the team, which has released its schedule, might not be playing at the stadium this summer.


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