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Adelanto, Mavericks spar over ballpark lease

High Desert MavericksThe City of Adelanto has terminated the Heritage Field lease held by the High Desert Mavericks (High A; California League) on the premise that the agreement negotiated in 2012 violates the California State Constitution.

A weak premise, to be sure; the city’s argument is that the 2012 lease benefits a private business and not the public in violation of the California State Constitution, giving the city the right to terminate it unilaterally. However, that very argument is addressed in the lease: a clause stating that the ballpark lease benefits the public and not just the Mavericks. So let’s cut to the chase and focus on exactly what’s happening: the City of Adelanto continues to be in financial trouble (in recent years bankruptcy has been proposed as a way to escape those problems with serious layoffs enacted to make ends meet) and is targeting the Mavericks because of a $1 lease.

On the surface, a $1 annual lease would not appear to benefit residents, but it does: the 2012 lease involved the team taking over maintenance and groundskeeping expenses from the city, cutting down city expenditures while keeping the team in town. At least one city council member affirmed that tradeoff, per the Daily Press:

Meanwhile, City Councilman Ed Camargo, the lone member on the dais from when the contract was struck, has said the $1 annual rent provided to Main Street Baseball, LLC was an intentionally nominal figure since certain expensive maintenance responsibilities were also shifted from the city to the team.

And it’s clear the city doesn’t actually want the Mavericks gone: leaders want a new lease with presumably a higher payment. Now, there are some ethical issues about wanting to renegotiate a standing lease, especially under such flimsy reasoning, but the Daily Press makes it clear what’s going on:

City officials have insisted they are willing and able to renegotiate a deal they believe will be more fair.

For their part, Mavericks owners Dave Heller and Jim Coufos have proposed mediation as a way to close the gap, issuing the following statement yesterday:

An Open Letter to Our Fans, Ticketholders, Sponsors and Residents of the High Desert community:

As many of you know, last week the Adelanto City Council, in an act that can be best described as nothing short of remarkable, voted to purportedly “void” the Mavericks’ lease for Heritage Field.

We are writing you to let you know that we at the Mavericks do not agree with the position the City has taken. Our lease, which constitutes a binding legal contract, was negotiated by the City Manager of Adelanto, vetted by City personnel, recommended by both the City Attorney and the Mayor, and approved by the City’s duly elected body, the City Council.

The City’s argument, which is that the team “serves no public purpose,” is undermined by the recitals agreed to by the City in the lease itself, which state that the City’s lease agreement with the Mavericks “is mutually beneficial,” and that “the team has become an integral part of the City and the region.”

Over the past few weeks, the Mavericks have reached out to the City in an effort to resolve the City’s concerns. The team is taking steps to enforce its rights under the lease. We have asked the City to engage in formal mediation to resolve the matter; should they decline, we will seek to have the lease’s validity confirmed through a formal arbitration process, and we are confident that we will prevail.

The Mavericks fully expect to be playing baseball at Heritage Field for the 2016 season. We will get through this matter, though we ask for your patience in the interim. Thank you all for your continued support. We look forward to seeing you at Heritage Field for Opening Day and the start of our 26th season in the High Desert on Thursday, April 7.

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