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Could Aces end up leaving Reno?

Reno AcesWith the Reno City Council rescinding a plan to pay $30 million toward Aces Ballpark debt, a threat made by team owner Herb Simon is thrust back into the spotlight: Would be follow through on a plan to move the Reno Aces (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League)?

Simon is a multibillionaire, worth approximately $2.2 billion, according to Forbes. He made his money as head of the Simon Property Group, one of the largest mall developers/operators in the country.

When issues with an impending $55-million construction loan for Aces Ballpark first surfaced, Simon made his stance perfectly clear: he’d rather sell the team, take a hit and walk away from the ballpark if the city and Washoe County didn’t arrange a bailout:

“If we cannot work this thing out, I have some tough decisions,” said Simon. “I’m not as young as I used to be, and I got a family I have to consider. And if it’s not viable, I’m in the position now to take a one-time loss, a considerable loss, but something that I can handle.”

On the one hand, it would be foolish not to take Simon at his word: property development isn’t an area where you get rich without playing hardball when appropriate. He could indeed afford to sell the team (which has considerably appreciated in value, we’re told by baseball insiders) for $20M+. Indeed, we’re seeing a loosening of capital resulting in more potential buyers for PCL teams: the Tucson Padres sold for $20.5 million, and there are at least two suitors for the Memphis Redbirds (the St. Louis Cardinals are sniffing around again, we hear, and there have been talks with an existing International League operator). Add in the sale of nearby land and the ballpark, and Simon is more than halfway toward paying off the ballpark debt without leaving his children as penniless paupers.

On the other hand, it would take some time for Simon to get out of Reno. The Pacific Coast League and Minor League Baseball would need to sign off on any sale and move, and even though the ballpark was privately financed, it’s still bad form for a team to leave a market after only four or five years. Technically, a move of the Aces wouldn’t involve saddling a municipality with ballpark debt, but it would still project a bad image and cloud the prospects for any publicly funded ballparks down the road. The 2013 Triple-A All-Star Game is set for Reno; it will be interesting to see where things lie then. Meanwhile, the City Council will revisit the issue in coming weeks.

RELATED STORIES: Reno withdraws future funding plan for Aces ballpark; Washoe County balking at Aces ballpark subsidy; Reno approves ballpark bailout; Aces owners: Refinance ballpark or we’ll move team; Aces, Washoe County continue debate over property taxes


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