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Rendell: Clock is ticking on new SWB ballpark financing

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre YankeesThe offer of $20 million in state money for a new Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (Class AAA; International League) ballpark definitely has some deadlines attached, as Penn. Gov. Ed Rendell warns dueling Lackawanna and Luzerne counties they need to end their spat in the new few weeks.

As we reported yesterday, Rendell is growing impatient with the two sides, who can’t agree with how to divvy up the $13 million expected from the impending sale of the SWB Yanks to the New York Yankees and Mandalay Baseball. Luzerne County, the co-owner of the team, wants to divide the proceeds equally per the original purchase agreement; Lackawanna County wants to deduce monies it put into the team and ballpark repaid, with the net proceeds then divided. Luzerne County has filed suit to impose its interpretation on the sale, a lawsuit that could potentially complicate the sale.

As well as a potential new ballpark. The state is offering $20 million for a new ballpark, provided the two counties come up with $20 million more. That’s a tall order, even if $13 million from the Yankees sale is put toward the ballpark. The deal Rendell is trying to broker, though, is a terrible one for Luzerne County: rather than taking the $6.5 million from the sale of the Yanks and applying it to a new ballpark, he wants to see the county take $2.5 million and then find $7.5 million more in county coffers for the new ballpark. Luzerne County has always been second fiddle in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre baseball universe; the request is as much an insult as an invitation to a lawsuit.

Everything will be coming to a head in the next few weeks, when the offer from the state will expire: we’re told by those in the governor’s office Rendell has laid down a line in the sand with the two counties and told them to come to some sort of agreement. Republican Tom Corbett, currently leading in the race to replace Rendell in 2011, isn’t as likely to support new-ballpark funding as Rendell was, so it’s certainly in the best interests of both counties to work things out quickly.

RELATED STORIES: Counties continue spat; SWB Yankees likely to be sold this week ; Lackawanna County: In a ballpark bind and mad; Squabbling could derail new SWB Yankees ballpark; Pols: Let’s not fix up PNC Field — or sell team to Mandalay, either

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