If you asked any long-term or die-hard American Association fan if they could imagine the league without the Winnipeg Goldeyes, they would probably scoff, “Yeah, right,” and go on their way. Unfortunately, it may be a possibility sooner rather than later.
Sam Katz, former mayor of Winnipeg and owner of the Fish, has been at odds with the Winnipeg City Council for five years over getting an new lease agreement. Now backs are against the proverbial wall as the American Association is requiring the team to have a lease agreement in place now and for the next five years. The Goldeyes have leased Shaw Park, their home since 1999, through 2023. Math: 2023 is less than five years from 2020. And when does the lease need to be in hand? Katz says in October.
Right now, Katz and the ownership group are leasing the stadium and the surrounding parking lot for $1 a year. The new lease offered by the city, who has asked for the books and bank papers from the ownership group, is a 15-year lease at $75,000 per year for the first five years, $85,000 per year for the second portion of five years, and $95,000 per year for the final five years. The city would also get revenue from use of the parking lot while the team gets entertainment rebates throughout the lease.
Funny thing: Katz and his ownership group has brought baseball back to Canada’s capital city. The stadium lease for the new team, who will be a part of the existing Frontier League, is $125,000 per year, plus applicable taxes. Katz says that he has no intention of moving the Goldeyes to Ottawa, but that it’s in the hands of the city council. A classic ownership move.
Goldeyes fans have enjoyed baseball in Winnipeg since 1994 when the team was born into the now-defunct Northern League. After the 2010 season, the Fish then joined other previous Northern League teams by breaking away and joining the American Association. Their fans travel very well, especially to Fargo metro area, when their team comes to play the rival Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. To have the Goldeyes removed from the American Association would have a far-reaching effect on the league, and ownership is putting the fans in the middle of the issue.