A last-minute motion by a Winnipeg city councillor to secure the Winnipeg Goldeyes’ support for a 15-year baseball stadium lease deal passed on the city council floor Thursday.
The current lease, set to expire in 2023, has been subject to more than five years of debate at city hall.
Last week, the mayor’s inner circle — the executive policy committee — voted four to three in favour of sending a proposed 15-year lease extension to council this week with a recommendation to reject the proposal for Shaw Park, with city staff writing in an administrative report that the city needed more information on the finances of the baseball club and its arm’s-length operator, Riverside Park Management.
However, St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes’s motion, that saw the lease cost lessened and tax grants from the city to the baseball club increased, passed twelve-to-four late in the afternoon after it was introduced Thursday.
The minor league American Association of Independent Professional Baseball Winnipeg Goldeyes are owned by former mayor Sam Katz.
Provided the Winnipeg Goldeyes Baseball Club approve the terms, the team would pay $25,000 in rent annually for the first five years of the lease, $50,000 for the next five years and $75,000 for the last five.
The proposal brought to EPC last week would have seen the team’s current $1-per-year lease deal replaced with a yearly rent of $75,000 increasing to $95,000 over the 15-year period.
Mayor Brian Bowman echoed city staff’s earlier conclusion when speaking to media prior to the vote.
“That’s really been my objective, to try to get as much information as possible to help us determine what the City of Winnipeg would be getting for that (nearly $12 million) subsidy,” Bowman said.
“I haven’t seen the information that would give me comfort that that level of subsidy for a for-profit sports team is needed.”
Mayes, however, argued that any money spent on tax grants to the team would simply be returning cash the baseball club paid to the city.
“Let’s be clear, it’s not a gift, it’s not a blank cheque — if there’s no entertainment, there’s no entertainment tax. If there’s no tenant, we don’t get the property tax,” Mayes told his council colleagues, adding that if the team decided to leave Winnipeg, the city would be on the hook for the stadium.
“It’s in our interest as a city to have a thriving downtown enterprise that is privately run at that stadium.”
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