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B-Mets, Main Street Baseball back in court this week

Binghamton MetsThe owners of the Binghamton Mets (Class AA; Eastern League) will be back in U.S. District Court this week after Main Street Baseball and Clark Minker won a temporary restraining order prohibiting the sale of the franchise to another buyer.

Main Street Baseball and Clark Minker were granted the temporary restraining order earlier this month, halting B-Mets owners from discussing the sale of the team to another buyer. This Wednesday’s hearing would escalate the TRO to a preliminary injunction prohibiting the sale of the the team to another buyer, pending a full-fledged trial.

The issue: Main Street Baseball, along with Clark Minker, had been negotiating the purchase of the B-Mets and entered into a purchase agreement, with a legally binding letter of intent as well as $100,000 in escrow. It’s not the first time the B-Mets owners had negotiated a sale of the team over the past several years — the team’s broker, Richard Billings from the Beacon Group, had also negotiated a sale of the team to Ryan-Sanders Baseball for a potential move to Ottawa, and earlier the team was connected with a potential Richmond move — but each time owners had backed down. The B-Mets were attractive to Main Street Baseball and Minker because the team could potentially be moved to another market, given the team’s short-term ballpark lease at NYSEG Stadium.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court Northern District of New York, lays out the plan by Main Street Baseball and Minker to buy the Binghamton Mets for $8.5 million and move the team to Wilmington, Del., while selling the Carolina League Blue Rocks franchise to the Texas Rangers for $12.5 million (Main Street Baseball owns other MiLB teams in addition to the Blue Rocks, including the Quad Cities River BanditsHigh Desert Mavericks and Billings Mustangs.) Main Street Baseball and Minker have been negotiating some serious upgrades to Frawley Stadium (the addition of a 360-degree concourse and an apartment complex in the outfield a la the Lansing Lugnuts) and local officials were reportedly enamored with the prospect of upgrading the level of play while also competing regionally with Phillies, Nationals and Yankees farm teams. (In fact, the Philadelphia Phillies — who control the Wilmington market — signed off on the deal.)

You can download the lawsuit filing here.

This time, however, money changed hands and a LOI was signed. The B-Mets owners say this was just a preliminary agreement opening the way for more negotiations; Main Street Baseball is arguing that this is a binding agreement and is asking the court to uphold it. The TRO certainly was a defeat for the B-Mets, and the owners could be further in the hole following Wednesday’s court date.

If the federal court upholds the purchase agreement, the B-Mets could be moved to Wilmington as soon as 2016. The B-Mets lease for NYSEG Stadium does not specify what level of play takes place at the ballpark, and many in baseball see Binghamton more as a short season A NY-Penn League market rather than a Class AA market.

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