Opportunities to get a Triple-A baseball franchise don't come along very often so the City of Ottawa should jump immediately on this one.
Mayor Larry O'Brien is a great salesman, after all he convinced Ottawans to elect him despite having never held political office, so it is time for him to show what he can do. It is possible the Omaha Royals, the Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, will be without a home stadium after the 2010 season, as their current home is being torn down and plans to play in that city's new downtown stadium being built for the National College Athletic Association's College World Series have fallen through.
The Royals have a long history with the Toronto Blue Jays, our local major league team -- they beat them in the World Series semi-finals in 1985. They even have a powder-blue jersey -- ust like the Jays do -- which is symbolic of blue sky thinking. We have one of the best minor-league baseball parks around and a professional sports market. Ottawa was also previously a farm club of the Philadelphia Athletics -- right before they moved to Kansas City in 1955 -- and Ottawa fans have long identified with Montreal, which once had a Triple-A baseball team called the Royals. There is a natural synergy.
The Ottawa Lynx were never sold very well to Ottawa's business community or the public. The Kansas City Royals know how to market baseball and have fan identification for their players and brand in this market. A Kansas City Royals farm team in Ottawa would boost the major-league club's TV ratings in Ottawa and provide a source of revenue for the Royals if the team were owned outright by Kansas City. That would give the Royals an interest in marketing the team here.
The Royals' distinctive KC insignia could be remodelled to an OC -- for Ottawa, Canada, and for the old municipality of Ottawa-Carleton, which would no doubt help bring in fans. Another tie-in would be with Ottawa's iconic Royal Swans.
The mayor should be on the phone today with the Kansas City Royals arranging a meeting between him, the baseball club, some councillors and city staff to explore this option. Mr. O'Brien need not get hung up on the fact that the Kansas City Royals, like the Toronto Blue Jays, do not own their Triple-A team or that the Ottawa Royals would not have a Canadian rival playing in their league. As well, moving players between Kansas City and Ottawa is very easy with superb air links. That would balance out any worry that the Royals' nearest opponent, the Des Moines, Iowa farm club of the Chicago Cubs, would be 1,500 kilometres away from Ottawa.
This kind of opportunity occurs but once or twice in a lifetime. Let's not lose a chance to properly use the $15-million taxpayer-owned ballpark on Coventry Road.
The Ottawa Royals. It has a nice ring to it.
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