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Archives: June 9-15, 2008

Archives: June 9-15, 2008
Flooding forces I-Cubs to postpone series opener tonight
Posted June 14, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Flooding on the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers is forcing the Iowa Cubs (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) to postpone Friday’s  game against the Nashville Sounds at Principal Park. No word on a makeup day. The bad weather is also causing issues with Midwest League and Northwoods League teams; the Waterloo Bucks were rained out last night in a game moved to Madison because of flooding at Riverfront Stadium, while the Cedar Rapids Kernels — from a city where there was major flooding the past few days — were scheduled to be at Kane County anyway. UPDATE: The I-Cubs played a game, but no one came. The Cubs and the Nashville Sounds played an official PCL game at 4 p.m., but because of flooding around Principal Park no fans were allowed in. The two teams are slated to play doubleheaders both Sunday and Monday.


Issue for Yankees becomes additional financing from the city
Posted June 13, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
More on the kafuffle surrounding a request by the New York Yankees to borrow additional money from New York City to complete the new Yankee Stadium in time for the 2009 season. The issue is not that the Yankees came up short or are over budget — completion loans are not uncommon in the world of large construction projects — but that the team wants to borrow more money on a tax-exempt basis from the New York City Economic Development Corp. Here’s the deal: the city basically financed construction of both the new Yankee Stadium for the Bombers and the new Citi Field for the New York Mets by issuing tax-exempt bonds; the teams saved on the cost of paying taxes on the bonds, but the teams are certainly on the hook to pay back the bonds: despite what some critics are implying, the city is not funding any construction costs. (Indeed, this has been a grand occasion for ballpark-funding opponents to muddy the waters and imply the proceeds of these bonds could be used for other purposes. Yeah, they could, but then the city of New York would need to repay them, not the Yankees and the Mets.) The IRS changed the rules on the use of revenue from tax-exempt bonds to specifically preclude their use for professional sports teams, and the city and the Yankees are now talking to the IRS to either a) reverse the decision or b) not apply it to projects in the pipeline when the IRS ruling came down. The new proposed New Jersey Nets (NBA) area could be doomed if the IRS doesn’t relent; we cover that on Arena Digest. More from the New York Times.

It’s now official: Omaha snares 25-year extension to CWS
Posted June 13, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
This was a PR move more than anything, as the Omaha City Council officially approved the contract to build a new ballpark in downtown Omaha and snare a 25-year extension from the NCAA to host the College World Series, though 2035. Good PR because the College World Series begins tomorrow (with opening festivities slated for tonight); College Baseball Digest will be there and reporting live from Opening Day. There was very little new with the announcement, and the NCAA didn’t even bother to push it to media outlets. But it’s fun to see which media outlets were paying attention a month ago when the terms of the deal were finalized. More from College Baseball Digest.

Yankees: More money needed to complete ballpark
Posted June 12, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
More money is needed to complete the new Yankee Stadium in time for the 2009 season, but the source of that money is up for some debate: the Yankees say they’re willing to borrow it, and local officials, including Seth Pinksy, president of New York City Economic Development Corp., say they’ve been ask to lend it to the team. The Yankees are looking for financing, not funding, but any more public assistance will surely reopen the debate over the appropriate public participation in the project: the team has privately financed the ballpark construction, while the city has provided infrastructure work and land acquisition. Current IRS regulations forbid the team to receive city financing on a tax-exempt basis; the Yankees want the regulation waived. "The effort on the completion bonds will not affect the completion of the stadium," team president Randy Levine said in a statement. "We are working under the strong leadership of the city and state, along with other projects to seek relief from the IRS regulation." More from Newsday.

Final touches being applied to new Billings ballpark
Posted June 12, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Workers are adding the final touches to Dehler Park, the new home of the Billings Mustangs (rookie; Pioneer League), which is slated to open at the end of the month. All the major work is done; what’s left is the finishing touches and detail work, such as the installation of outfield bleachers and the installation of statues honoring Billings native Dave McNally and American Legion coach Ed Bayne. But the sod has taken (in fact, the field should be playable next week, well in advance of the June 29 opening ceremonies), the outfield scoreboard is up, and the concessions installed. The new ballpark is the successor to Cobb Field, one of our favorite parks in the minors, so we have some high expectations. More from the Billings Gazette. We’ll be in Billings in a few weeks and will schedule a sneak peak before the June 29 opening ceremonies.

Zeal for low taxes versus baseball debt rules colliding in Cubs sale
Posted June 12, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Sam Zell’s zeal to avoid capital-gains taxes through the use of complex financial maneuvers is colliding head-on with MLB’s rules, as a favorite mechanism of a Zell sale — dumping debt on an entity so he can suck out equity from a related asset — may not be possible in the sale of the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field and a stake in a local cable-sports station. Bids for the trio are due in early July, but potential ownership groups — at least the two we’re in contact with — are having a tough time following Zell’s increasingly twisted financial arrangements that need to pass muster both with MLB and the IRS. In a straight sale, the Tribune Co. would be hit with some pretty large capital-gains taxes; after all, the Cubs and Wrigley were purchased for $20.5 million in 1981, and today’s sale price could approach or exceed $1 billion. One potential solution — for Zell, anyway — is to dump debt onto Wrigley Field and have the new owners sign a lease to play there (which, in retrospect, was one big reason why Zell wanted to sell the Friendly Confines to the state). While we don’t think the maneuvering will end up reducing the value of the assets, they could end up delaying the sale: MLB takes its debt rules very seriously, and any deal that runs afoul of them could be vetoed. Meanwhile, look for a surprise or two when the names of the bidders are released. More from the Chicago Tribune.

Do the numbers add up on Burnsville ballpark proposal?
Posted June 12, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
We’ve spent some time thinking about the proposed ballpark in Burnsville, Minn., for an independent Northern League team, and one question bugs us: how will the numbers work? Right now the developers say they’ll spend $27 million of their own just on the ballpark. Now, that’s a lot of private money for a ballpark for independent ballpark, especially one in the state where the season is short and the chances for ancillary sources of revenues (concerts, et al) are limited. (The total price figure isn’t out of line — the recently opened QuikTrip Park at Grand Prairie cost $20 million or so, but it was funded by the city as part of a larger development effort.) We also know that despite comments made by the developers to the Burnsville City Council, financing for the project isn’t totally arranged. (And, given the credit crunch, we’re highly doubtful any bank has signed off on the project.) So let’s say the developers have $7 million already in equity financing. That means they’ll need to generate much more than $1 million a year just in debt service — at the very least. That’s a lot of debt for any team, much less an independent-league team, and we’re wondering how realistic a financial proposal this ballpark is. We all know the trend is to tie other development to finance a ballpark, but this Burnsville proposal calls for only eight acres of development, and given the limitations of the site, we can’t see any big-buck commercial development there. Add to that the claims that the Northern League is seeking a team in Waukesha, Wis. — a complete shock to the folks in that Milwaukee suburb we’re in contact with, given that an ad hoc city committee is currently reviewing a proposal for a 2,000-seat Northwoods League ballpark in Frame Park — and a more cynical observer might conclude these dog-and-pony shows and innuendos are meant more to attract new investors, rather than any sort of any solid business plan.

Rally to support BoSox move to Sarasota scheduled for tonight
Posted June 12, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
A citizens group looking to lure the Boston Red Sox’s spring operations to Sarasota is holding a rally tonight to raise enthusiasm for the proposal. The Red Sox and Sarasota officials have been discussing a larger development on the city’s fairgrounds that would include a new complex and land for Red Sox development. Sarasota County officials debated the proper level of public support, though we continue to hear the Red Sox are seeking land for development and public funding of a new complex, which could cost as much as $70 million. One big issue will be a study determining the worth of spring training. More from the Naples News. Spring training is now a big business: Revenue at Mesa’ HoHoKam Park for Chicago Cubs spring training exceeded $6.5 million this year.

Pinellas County tourism board not thrilled with Rays ballpark proposal
Posted June 12, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Pinellas County Tourist Development Council is split on the issue of diverting proceeds of the county’s tourism tax to help finance a proposed $450-million waterfront ballpark on the Al Lang Field site in downtown St. Petersburg for the Tampa Bay Rays. The council discussed the issue and failed to reach a consensus on how to proceed. The board is prohibited on how it can spend its funds — for instance, the proceeds of the tax can’t go back into the county’s general fund — but the members do bring up projects to benefit themselves: the manager of a beachfront hotel wants to see money spend on — surprise, surprise! — beach restoration. More from the St. Pete Times.

One more reprieve for Tiger Stadium
Posted June 12, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick announced today that the final contract to raze Tiger Stadium will be put on hold until Aug. 1, giving Ernie Harwell and the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy more time to raise $369,000 as a deposit on a $15 million redevelopment plan, which would preserve the ballpark’s original grandstand. To say that this is surprising is an understatement, though Tiger Stadium is a grand old ballpark crammed with history and character, and places like that aren’t appreciated adequately until they are gone. Besides, there’s really no reason not to wait two more months; it’s not as though the demolition has to absolutely begin next week. More from the Detroit Free Press.

Flooding forces Bucks on the road
Posted June 12, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Waterloo Bucks (summer collegiate; Northwoods League) were poised to play their longest home series of the year before flooding on the Cedar River engulfed Riverfront Stadium (shown below) forcing the team to move home games to Madison’s Warner Park last night and tonight. Chances are good the Bucks will also play two games in Wausau before heading to Mankato for a regularly scheduled series.
    Meanwhile, the Iowa Cubs (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) are taking precautions and sandbagging around Principal Park in case the Des Moines River floods. Employees for the Iowa Cubs have been filling sand bags and placing them around the stadium for two days. The wall of sandbags is up to three feet high in some areas. The team has looked at shifting a series against Memphis Nashville to AutoZone Park, but as of 11 a.m. the team announced it would play the games at home. Fans may need to take shuttles to the ballpark, however. Nope, the I-Cubs will indeed delay the first game of the series due to flooding both on the Des Moines River and the Raccoon River.

Ballpark Notes
Posted June 12, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Trenton Thunder (Class AA; Eastern League) welcomed the six-millionth fan in the team’s fifteen year history on Wednesday evening at Waterfront Park as the Thunder faced the Connecticut Defenders. Twenty-three-year-old Shawn Caple of Franklinville, N.J. walked through the gates of Waterfront Park at 6:37 PM to become the 6,000,000th fan. Shawn attended the game with the Ameen family, Alex, Damian, Anna and D.J. He was recognized during the game’s radio broadcast and on top of the Thunder dugout during the seventh inning stretch. Caple was presented a Thunder prize package that included two season tickets for the remainder of the 2008 season, lunch with a Thunder player including transportation from A-1 Limousine, an autographed Joba Chamberlain ball and a Thunder jersey and hat….Mike Veeck will receive the Roland Hemond Award at the 38th annual Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) convention in Cleveland from June 26-29 by the host Jack Graney Chapter.  Veeck, an executive board member with the Goldklang Group, will accept the award for the organization’s tireless efforts to recognize scouts, and he will also participate in a panel of front office personnel at the convention….Minor League Baseball recently released its list of the top 25 properties in merchandise sales. Some fresh faces joined the list of perennial leaders in 2007 – anchoring eight consecutive years of growth that have seen league-wide licensed merchandise sales double since 1999. The league’s double-digit growth from 2006 to 2007 stands in stark contrast to a recent study released by the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers Association that reported an industry-wide decline of 0.8 percent, which includes a 1.2 percent decline in sports licensing. Here are Top 25 Minor League Baseball licensed properties for 2007
(listed alphabetically): Batavia Muckdogs, Brooklyn Cyclones, Carolina Mudcats, Charleston RiverDogs, Corpus Christi Hooks, Dayton Dragons, Durham Bulls, Great Lakes Loons, Greensboro Grasshoppers, Lake Elsinore Storm, Lakewood BlueClaws, Lansing Lugnuts, Memphis Redbirds, Midland RockHounds, Pawtucket Red Sox, Portland Sea Dogs, Rochester Red Wings, Round Rock Express, Sacramento River Cats, Salt Lake Bees, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, Toledo Mud Hens, Trenton Thunder, Tucson Sidewinders, and Wisconsin Timber Rattlers…. The Greensboro Grasshoppers (Low Class A; Sally League) will host a press conference outside the Plaza Entrance at the corner of Eugene and Bellemeade Friday, May 13, at 11:00 a.m. to unveil the newest attraction to NewBridge Bank Park. Greensboro is set to become the first Minor League Baseball team in the world to have a MegaMascot as the Hoppers have been working with Fun Enterprises to bring a life-sized bench featuring Guilford and Miss Babe Ruth to the ballpark. The bench will be placed outside the Plaza Entrance for fan to utilize year-round. The area already features several over-sized baseballs, a large multi-level grassy area and a water fountain. Fun Enterprises, a company that creates a variety of large sports art pieces, has provided their MegaMascot product to three Major League Baseball teams including the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Brewers; working with Greensboro to create the bench was the first time the company has provided such services to any Minor League Team in the world.

New indy ballpark proposed for Minneapolis suburb
Posted June 11, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Developers Tony Pettit of Lakeville and Terry DeRoche of Prior Lake are proposing a 7,200-capacity ballpark in the southern suburbs of Minneapolis-St. Paul for the Metro Millers, a team slated for the independent Northern League. The proposal calls for a 5,200-seat ballpark (with berm seating for 2,000 more) on an 18-acre site, accompanied by commercial and retail development. The ballpark would sport several green features, according to DJR Architecture, including wind turbines to generate electricity. The site, just off Hwy. 13 and Interstate 35W on a former quarry site, has been projected by city officials for years as a development site, but so far there have been no takers. The developers presented a plan of sorts last night to the Burnsville City Council, and it was the sort of preliminary presentation designed to excite the locals: lots of renderings, no information on financing. And the locals were suitably impressed — to a point. (We’re also guessing the city will force them to change the team name: watch for them to insist on a change to the Burnsville Millers if they’re putting any money into it.) The developers say they can privately finance the $27 million ballpark as part of a larger development project, but we’re not entirely sure the developers have the equity financing in place quite yet: we know of at least one local investor who was approached as recently as last week about participating in this deal. (He passed.) State law prevents a project like this to receive the proceeds of tax-increment financing, but the city may be able to use those proceeds for infrastructure improvements that benefit more than just the ballpark operators. (And, of course, the city could use other funding methods to subsidize construction costs.) In this Pioneer Press article, St. Paul Saints (independent; American Association) head honcho Tom Whaley says the new team would be competition for his franchise, but we disagree. Burnsville and southern suburbs like Rosemount and Lakeville are a pretty distinct part of the Twin Cities; there may be a sponsorship defection or two, but we can’t see a mass exodus of fans heading 45 minutes south. (Let’s put it this way: it’s a real pain to head to this area during rush hour, and for this team to work they’ll need to draw most of their crowds from south of the Minnesota River.) So from a business perspective we actually like the location. It will take a while before a decision is made: the developers must present an environmental assessment and then present an actual funding plan to the City Council. Northern League Commissioner Clark Griffith says the ballpark can be open in time for the 2009 season, but we thinks that’s totally unrealistic, and already there’s talk of the Millers playing as a road team next season. (By the way, this isn’t the first time someone dusted off the Millers name. The first attempt was a big failure, even with former MLB slugger George Scott as the manager. The developers are pushing this team as a successor to the original Minneapolis Millers — the team where Willie Mays made his mark in only a month of play — but it’s not, and it’s more than a little disingenuous and cynical to argue otherwise.)