Much is still to be determined, but ongoing attempts to return Minor League Baseball to Ottawa have taken a significant step forward.
As first reported by the Ottawa Citizen, a tentative agreement to bring a Double-A Eastern League franchise to the city has been reached. The city of Ottawa issued a press release Thursday, declaring that it had "reached an agreement in principle with a private sector proponent for the Ottawa Stadium that will be recommended to the City's Finance and Economic Development Committee."
The proposed agreement "stipulates a 10-year lease with two five-year extension options for a [Double-A] member club of the Eastern League Minor League Baseball to play at the Ottawa Stadium. This could potentially mean the return of baseball to Ottawa as early as the spring of 2013."
Ottawa Stadium housed the International League's Ottawa Lynx from 1993 until 2007, when the franchise relocated to Pennsylvania and began operation as the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Myriad repairs and improvements need to be made to the facility, and the press release notes that approximately $5.7 million would be contributed by the city and another $3 million from team ownership.
What Eastern League team would relocate to Ottawa remains an unanswered question, as league rules forbid the disclosure of such information until all necessary approvals have been secured. The proposed franchise in Ottawa would join the Vancouver Canadians (Class A Short-Season affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays) as the only Minor League Baseball teams to play in Canada.
As noted in the City of Ottawa press release, the next step in the process is for the agreement to receive the necessary governmental approvals. It will be considered by the Finance and Economic Development Committee on Feb. 16 and then by City Council on Feb. 22.
"This is an important milestone towards bringing professional baseball back to the City of Ottawa for the enjoyment of all residents," Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said. "Returning pro ball to Ottawa, will allow the City to preserve this important purpose-built facility, maximize the use of an existing city asset and provide an additional recreation venue for our residents."
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog.