Latest proposal for Shaw Park lease gets thumbs down from Winnipeg city committee

Mayor Brian Bowman cast the deciding vote against the latest proposal on a lease deal for Shaw Park, as the City of Winnipeg’s executive policy committee split 3-3 on the pitch.

Tuesday’s vote marks yet another setback for former mayor Sam Katz’s Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball team, which is looking to get a lease he says is needed to keep the team in the city.

The city and the ball club began negotiating more than five years ago.

The latest proposal from the city’s public service was a 15-year lease for Shaw Park that would see the team pay annual rent of $75,000 in the first five years, $85,000 in the following five years, and $95,000 in the final years. Two five-year extensions would be possible after the end of the 15-year period.

The current lease charges $1 per year, and expires in three years.

Parking revenue from lots around the ballpark is one of the key sticking points, with the city looking for more money and the team saying it needs to keep every dime it gets to stay afloat.

Earlier this year, a vote on the 15-year lease proposal at the city’s property and planning committee was also split.

At Tuesday’s executive policy committee meeting, Couns. Matt Allard (St. Boniface), Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre) and Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry), along with Bowman, said there was not enough financial information forthcoming from Katz and his management team.

Allard told EPC members he couldn’t understand why someone who wanted access to the city land wouldn’t provide the information that was requested.

The city calculates its subsidy to the Goldeyes at $8.2 million over 15 years.

“I’m open to looking at the subsidy, provided the information [we’ve requested] is provided,” Bowman told his EPC colleagues.

The mayor later defended his decision, saying he simply didn’t have enough information to “look people in the eye” and say he’d voted for the lease.

St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes worries the city will end up with a parking lot and an empty stadium, but no baseball team, if it can’t reach a lease agreement. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Couns. Scott Gillingham (St. James), Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) and Brian Mayes (St. Vital) voted for the administration’s latest proposal to the ball team.

Mayes has consistently supported getting a deal done with Katz, worrying if the team leaves, the city will be left with an empty stadium.

“We will have a parking lot,” Mayes warned.

Katz sent a team to the executive committee to make his case, including the ball club’s CFO, Jason McRae-King, and the author of a study that pointed to the economic impact the Goldeyes bring to the city.

McRae-King insisted the team has provided all the financial data that was requested, short of some information that was proprietary and confidential. 

That was not the answer Bowman and the three other councillors who voted against the proposal were looking for. The motion’s defeat means the proposal will be sent to the next full council meeting without a recommendation.

Katz, who has a lease deal in hand for a stadium in Ottawa to operate a minor-league ball club in that city, has said he wants to keep the Goldeyes in Winnipeg.