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Stockton wants to rework Ports lease; Ports resisting

Stockton PortsIt’s never been the best of relationships, as the city of Stockton and the Stockton Ports (High Class A; California League) spar over a possible renegotiation of the team’s lease at Banner Island Ballpark.

How bad is the relationship? The two can’t even agree on the name of the facility: the city calls it Stockton Ballpark and the team calls it Banner Island Ballpark. To say that Stockton has been mismanaged over the years is a misnomer: the city spent to the point of bankruptcy and is now using it as a reason to renegotiate virtually every contract with a third party. Which would include the Ports. The city says it is subsidizing Banner Island Ballpark to the tune of $500,000 annually — mostly paid out to SMG under a ballpark management deal — and the city wants to renegotiate the team’s lease to bring in more revenue.

That’s nonsense, says Ports President and part owner Pat Filippone: the team has lived up to its contract and doesn’t see the need to renegotiate; instead, the city should be working with the team and ballpark manager SMG to increase revenue streams, including the sale of naming rights. From the Stockton Record:

The dispute stems from a 25-year contract Stockton and the Ports signed in 2004. The Ports paid $1.2 million up front, an average of $48,000 a year, for use of the ballpark. Under the deal, the team has two seven-year options that would extend the agreement an additional 14 years, making it a nearly four-decades long contract.

The team also pays $1.25 for every ticket sold and half of the revenue from suites. Citing confidential mediation, Filippone declined to reveal those totals, but he called it a “solid six-figure number.”

For its part, the city this year paid $445,670 to SMG, Stockton’s entertainment management firm, to mow the grass and maintain the ballpark. The city paid an additional $65,000 in property taxes for the publicly owned ballpark used by the Ports, a privately held firm.

Now, why isn’t the city working to redo its deal with SMG? Deep pockets, as it happens: Ports owner Tom Volpe has them, and the city doesn’t:

[Deputy City Manager Laurie] Montes also noted that Filippone’s colleague and the Ports’ majority owner, Tom Volpe, is a wealthy venture capitalist who recently moved back to California from Dubai.

“Stockton doesn’t have the same kind of means as Tom Volpe,” Montes said.

That remains to be seen.


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