The Winnipeg Goldeyes played their first-ever game at Shaw Park on June 4, 1999. The at time brand new home of the Goldeyes cost 13-million dollars and is located right by the "Forks" in Winnipeg's downtown.
In that season, nearly 300,000 fans came out to support the Goldeyes. The average attendance of 6,048 per game represented a 98.5 percent capacity for the season. Since that year, more than 5,750,000 people have entered Shaw Park to watch the home team play with each year roughly 270,000 entering the facility.
Earlier this week, news broke out that Goldeyes' owner Sam Katz had signed a 10-year lease on a state of the art ballpark in Ottawa. The lease is broken up into two five-year options and the lease is effective January 2, 2021, and the new organization will be required to pay the city $125,000 per year.
"It's a phenomenal ballpark, it was built for professional baseball," said Katz in an interview. "It's right near the LRT and it has a huge parking lot of about 850 cars. I'm very happy that I was able to work something out with the Mayor and council."
The ballpark was the former home of the Ottawa Lynx, a minor league team that competed in the Triple-A International League (IL) from 1993 to 2007. Over the 15 seasons, the team was an affiliate of the Montreal Expos (1993–2002), Baltimore Orioles (2003–2006), and Philadelphia Phillies (2007). At the time, it was the only IL franchise in Canada.
Katz has now begun the process to bring professional baseball back to the nation's capital in time for the 2021 season.
"I'm really excited about it, a ton of hard work has gone into it," he offered. "We have a lot of work to do in a short period of time and with COVID-19, this is a challenging time as well. We're getting down to business and working on everything right now."
With the news that Katz had signed the lease, many people were asking questions of would the Goldeyes continue playing in Winnipeg. The answer to that question is one that Katz doesn't hesitate to answer.
"I'll put this the best way I can. I put blood, sweat, and tears into bringing baseball back to Winnipeg," said Katz. "My goal is for the Goldeyes to be here for a long, long time."
So a Winnipeg summer tradition will continue, hopefully, in time for the 2021 summer season. Winnipeg played this past season in Fargo as the American Association played to a truncated schedule of 60 games with just six teams because of the novel coronavirus. Winnipeg missed the playoffs with a mark of 29-31 in the regular season.
It was the first time in Shaw Park history that Winnipeg didn't play a single game at the stadium during the summer months and because of that, not only did the team miss the playoffs in Fargo, but they also lost a significant amount of money.
"We're hoping we don't hit the seven-figure mark, but we know it's going to be near that and there's no doubt about that," said Katz. "Not having any income for 20 months is tough for any business. It wasn't an ideal situation for many teams this season, but we felt that going on the road and playing this season was something we needed to do."
So Winnipeg Goldeyes fans, you don't have to worry anymore as professional baseball will continue in Manitoba's capital in 2021 and for many years to come. And if you haven't been to Shaw Park before but you're planning on doing it in the near future, you're in for a treat watching a game in the ballpark that can fit more than 6500 fans.
"Shaw Park is one of the nicest parks in North America, it's plain and simple," ended Katz. "My goal has always been to keep this team in Winnipeg and that's what will happen."
The Goldeyes currently have three more years on their lease to play inside Shaw Park. Sam says he is working diligently with Mayor and council to sign a new lease.