Some in Winston-Salem want to see the Winston-Salem Dash (High Class A; Carolina League) disclose additional information about team finances as part of BB&T Ballpark financial oversight. But if the team is meeting the conditions of its lease, should that information made public? A lesson for all teams.
The issue: when Winston-Salem taxpayers stepped in to fund the construction left on BB&T Ballpark, a citizens committee was formed to oversee the ballpark’s finances. That group has met, and the team has provided financial information per the ballpark agreement. But not all the financial information has been released, as owner Billy Prim and crew have deemed part of it proprietary data not to be released to the public — their right under North Carolina public-records laws. Instead, the committee reported that revenues were slightly lower than expected at the ballpark, but expenditures were trimmed proportionally. And the Dash have made every scheduled payment to the city in terms of rent and ticlet surcharges.
However, the local newspaper want at that data and have filed a request to see records provided to the committee. We would expect the Dash to fight that strongly: baseball teams are loathe to release detailed financial records to anyone save league offices and prospective buyers, especially in a situation where public disclosure wasn’t required. The agendas of some are quite clear: if the Dash is viewed (in their eyes) to be making a disproportional profit, they’ll agitate to raise the rent for the ballpark.
We’d expect some sort of compromise, perhaps, in the name of transparency, with revenue and expenses listed. Still, changing the rules after the game has started isn’t a very good practice. The lesson: if you’re negotiating a lease, be sure to spell out what data can be released to the public before signing on the bottom line.
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