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Switch to Astros affiliation highlights Grizzlies issues

Fresno Grizzlies logoThe team’s been on the market for months and consistently late in rent payments, and the loss of the San Francisco Giants as a parent is highlighting issues with the Fresno Grizzlies (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League).

The team’s lease at Chukchansi Park is one of the most expensive and restrictive in Minor League Baseball: it calls for $750,000 in annual rent, specifies that a Pacific Coast League team play out of the facility, and gives the city a chunk of the sale proceeds. Fresno is not exactly an affluent community, and it’s been a struggle for team owners to make the rent, leading to a situation where the team is consistently in arrears on payments. Grizzlies President Chris Cummings has made it clear that all or some of Fresno Baseball Club LLC is for sale, and even though there have been plenty of folks taking a look under the hood, the team’s situation is pretty much the same. Losing the Giants affiliation to the Sacramento River Cats (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) probably won’t help matters any; the Grizzlies have been a Giants farm team since the team’s 1998 inception. The team’s lease was rewritten in 2009, and there’s talk about another lease adjustment. From the Fresno Bee:

Does City Hall, breathing easier now about its finances, move first by finding a politically expedient way to lower rent? Or does Cummings sell to someone acceptable to City Hall, the new buyer paying top dollar on the promise of a better lease?

“It may be a hybrid of those two,” Cummings said….

Yet another variable: It’s not just rent that eats at Cummings and his partners. The lease requires them to pay for non-structural maintenance at the stadium. The owners also foot the bill for team travel, a tab of consequence from a midsized, out-of-the-way city like Fresno. Does City Hall help with the idea that a new owner, buoyed by a better financial foundation that can only cheer the Houston Astros, will return the vote of confidence with an improved product at downtown’s top outdoor entertainment venue?

A deal to make baseball a sustainable business in Fresno is clearly in everyone’s best interest — whether they realize it or not.


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