|AA coming to the Nation's Capital ? Not so fast.....|
The City of Ottawa moved rapidly to bring minor league ball back to the Nation's Capital after city council gave its blessing last fall. After consulting with a number of groups in private talks, however, it seems that the plan has had a major setback, and the city is not ready to host a team for several years.
The Blue Jays Player Development contract with their AA Eastern League affiliate in New Hampshire expires after the 2014 season. Moving the club to Ottawa made sense for a number of reasons, including proximity to Toronto (many major league clubs prefer to assign their top prospects to AA ball), and the Jays' popularity in the National Capital Region would make for a good fit from a marketing perspective.
The city has come to realize, however, that development of the existing stadium is a bigger project than had been originally thought. The city had floated the idea of developing the parking lot beside the stadium into a residential development to help pay for the renovations, but the loss of parking spaces while a new underground lot is built would be detrimental to the new team. After the AAA Lynx left the city following the 2007 season, the owners indicated that losing parking spaces was a huge problem for the team. The renovations would come in at a minimum of just under $6 million to develop the stadium into a "total experience."
Another problem with the stadium site is its relatively inaccessible location. A new rail line, with a planned pedestrian bridge to the park, is in the works.
So it would take a minor miracle for Ottawa to come up with the funds to finance and complete the needed renovations by the spring of 2014, or even 2015. The Jays will likely have to either renew with New Hampshire for 2 more years, or negotiate with another AA club (preferable in the Eastern League) when their current PDC expires. The city is taking the longer view, hoping to put something in place that will attract and keep a minor league team for a long time, but the timing may not be right for a Jays AA affiliate in Ottawa for several more years.