By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
Negotiations between the Generals and the city for a new lease have hit another bump, as the team has reportedly begun looking elsewhere.
An anonymous source within the Oshawa Generals organization has told The Oshawa Express while it’s still very early, the team has begun negotiating with an unnamed municipality as negotiations with the City of Oshawa have begun to turn sour.
Initially, according to Mayor Dan Carter, the team approached the city asking to have rent lowered, as they paid the highest rates in the entire OHL.
However, according to the source, while the team agreed to the financials in the deal presented by the city, the city wasn’t able to help with the requested space upgrades the team needs at the Tribute Communities Centre.
As previously reported by The Express, negotiations between the city and the team had stalled in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as both sides unwillingness to budge on certain items.
The team and the city have been negotiating for approximately a year now, but owner and president Rocco Tullio admits it’s been frustrating.
“We’re trying to get a lease extension done here to sort of solidify our position in the community for another 25 years,” he explains. “But, it’s been challenging… [Mayor Dan Carter] has been great to work with, and [Commissioner of Finance Services] Stephanie Sinnott has been great to work with.”
Tullio says the team and the city are still trying to find a solution that “works for everybody,” and the organization isn’t ready to give up hope yet.
One item the organization has been pushing for is an increase in office and workout space, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The team has previously asked for three more offices upstairs in the Tribute Communities Centre. Tullio notes their coaches don’t have an office downstairs where the team trains, the video team doesn’t have an office, they need a board room, and other additions.
The organization also requested the city to look into asking the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame to concede some space, but the notion was rejected, and Tullio says there isn’t another space that could work.
“I don’t believe [the hall of fame] needs 2,000 to 3,000 sq. ft. I think at the end of the day, giving us 400 or 500 sq. ft…. they can obviously reconfigure that space and look as though it’s not negatively impacted,” he says.
Tullio believes this would give them the office space they need, adding people are currently “doubled up.”
“Fifteen years ago we didn’t have a social media person, we didn’t have a graphics person, we didn’t have two marketing people or season ticket people,” says Tullio. “So, we’ve had to adjust to the demands of what hockey is today.”
He notes with COVID-19, people don’t want to be sharing an office, making the additional space a key breaking point.
He adds the team also asked for the gym to be expanded an additional 20 feet, but they were told no, because the accommodations they were asking for were needed to help run the facility.
“We weren’t asking to take away space though. We were saying we would pay to have it relocated somewhere else in the facility at our cost,” says Tullio, adding it would cost the team approximately $100,000, and the city nothing.
In terms of looking at other municipalities, Tullio says the team is going to “keep an open mind” and won’t “close any doors.”
“Our priority is to do a deal with the City of Oshawa, but they’re going to have to come to the realization that those key points of space are deal-breakers,” he explains.
He says if the city is looking to “play hard and fast” and not concede what amounts to 2,000 sq. ft. spread across the arena, then the city is moving at “it’s own peril.”
“We’ll do what we have to do to make sure that our organization is in the best position to succeed, not only today, but in the future, and if that means listening to other developers or other municipalities, we’re going to keep an open mind, and keep all of our options open,” he says.
Ultimately, it comes down to the city, says Tullio, and it’s “in the city’s hands now.”
“We refined this offer to the point this was very reasonable. We’ve been here for 84 years, and we want to be treated like a major tenant,” he says.
Carter says while the negotiations have hit another roadblock, he says there’s another 10 years on the lease, and the city will continue to work with them throughout.
However, Carter explains the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame has played a “significant role” in the community, and the hall was not open to giving up the space, as it played “an important role” in Oshawa’s sporting history.
“It was council’s decision and they supported that decision,” he says.
In terms of the negotiations with another municipality, Carter notes the team still has 10 years on its lease, but he wasn’t aware the team had been looking elsewhere.
“I haven’t been informed by the Oshawa Generals that they’re negotiating with any other municipality, and it would sadden me to think that they would be negotiating with another municipality,” he says.
Carter notes the team has a “world class arena” in Oshawa, and council has made “concessions” to help them with finances.
The mayor also credits the fans, saying they’ve been “absolutely incredible.”
“I would find it very disappointing that they would be looking at another municipality,” says Carter.
He says the city will continue to work with the team, as well as the OHL, to find a solution.