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Debate rages over SWB Yankees sale

Proposed PNC Field renovations

Though Lackawanna County officials were on record as supporting a sale of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (Class AAA; International League) a potential legal challenge from Luzerne County over the terms of the sale could complicate the matter for the New York Yankees and Mandalay Baseball.

To say that a toxic situation exists in Moosic and beyond is an understatement: Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties have been arguing about the International League franchise virtually since the day they agreed to buy it for $2 million. And although a deal of sorts was reached last week where the Yankees and Mandalay agreed to spend more on a longer lease, Luzerne County is on record as opposing the sale — and a ballpark renovation.

It sounds like the Yankees and Mandalay will need to jump through some additional hoops before any sale is final: Luzerne County officials are talking about an appraisal of the team as a starter. True, $14.6 million for a Triple-A team seems a little on the low side: the Portland Beavers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) are being sold by Merritt Paulson to a group led by Jeff Moorad for a reported $18 million, but that number was far above the range many MiLB insiders expected. We will assume, however, that any outside appraisal will come in at least a little higher than $14.6 million.

But this will won’t clear the biggest part of the intra-county spat: where the proceeds should go. Luzerne County wants to split them 50-50; Lackawanna County wants to see its investments in the team and PNC Field repaid first. Lackawanna County may have the better moral argument — after all, Lackawanna County’s investments certainly helped drive up the value of the franchise — but Luzerne County may have the better legal one, as the original purchase agreement didn’t provide for an unequal split in proceeds if the team is sold. On paper, Luzerne County is a 50 percent owner of the team.

So despite an agreement last week that appeared to break the logjam, we’re not expecting a consumated sales agreement any time soon.

RELATED STORIES: Yanks, Mandalay agree to buy SWB Yankees, unveil ballpark renovations; Compromise on the way in SWB ballpark squabble? ; Rendell: Clock is ticking on new SWB ballpark financing; 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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