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Ballpark battles in California: Leases at stake

High Desert MavericksWe’re not sure this constitutes a trend, but there are certainly are similarities to the way California cities are treating two teams — the High Desert Mavericks (High A; California League) and the Marysville Gold Sox (summer collegiate; Great West League) — over existing ballpark leases.

We’ve covered the situation between the Mavericks and the city of Adelanto recently, as the city attempts to break the team’s lease for Heritage Field on the premise that the agreement negotiated in 2012 violates the California State Constitution. That, of course, is nonsense; the financially challenged city is openly seeking to renegotiate the current lease in search of more revenue, and doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to work out some sort of agreement with Mavericks owner Main Street Baseball. The two sides have met in mediation, with the city’s position on a new lease laid down as a line in the sand. In response, Main Street Baseball has taken to the courts to force a resolution. From the Daily Press:

But while mediation hinted at repairing the rift, the lawsuit filed last week speaks to a contrasting narrative where Mavericks officials suggest that “rather than wait for a judicial ruling on the validity of the Contract, the City is actively taking steps to disrupt the Team’s upcoming season in a blatant attempt to force the Team out of the Ballpark.”

Attorneys representing the Mavericks say the city physically locked the team out of portions of the ballpark and has made disparaging public statements about the team that have put its upcoming season in doubt, stressing relationships with ticketholders, vendors, sponsors, advertisers and the California League….

Main Street California sought a preliminary injunction against the city Friday, but court records show that a judge held off on making a ruling. The court instead appears willing to wait for the outcome of a status hearing next Monday on the Mavericks’ attempt to force arbitration. An unlawful detainer — a legal document necessary to evict a tenant — has also been filed in the Barstow courthouse, according to records.

The same situation has come up in Marysville, where city officials are attempting to work out a new lease with new Gold Sox owners. The city says the team defaulted on the old lease and are attempting to raise the rent with the new lease. Team ownership, represented by minority owner Bob Bavasi, says the old lease is still in place and that this is nothing but a shakedown by the city. From the Appeal-Democrat:

The city is looking for an increase in lease payments — which haven’t been raised since the original agreement. It maintains city maintenance costs for the stadium now exceed the payment, though that has been disputed by the team.

“For the past decade at least, the city has given the team very favorable lease rates for the use of Bryant Field (the original name of Colusa Casino Stadium),” Marysville City Manager Walter Munchheimer said. “But it’s simply unreasonable to expect taxpayers of Marysville to subsidize the Gold Sox.” He said the city put off required fee increases during the recession to help ensure the team remained.

What happens next is anybody’s guess, though the impetus would apparently be on the city to seek eviction of the Gold Sox if the team attempts to enter the field in late May to get ready for the season.

“We have a lease for the stadium,” Bavasi said. “We are operating now and will continue to operate in the same manner as we have done since the start of 2003.

“If the city wishes to renegotiate its lease, no problem. The lease spells out the time and manner to do so.”

In both situations, there seems to be some pretty aggressive accounting from public officials as to what extent the ballparks are subsidized. In Adelanto, the city claims to have lost $1.8 million in lost revenue because of the Mavericks ballpark lease, but a lot of the numbers are pure fantasy: they assume the city could generate more revenue than the team without taking into account any of the team overhead or other costs paid by the Mavericks ownership, including ballpark maintenance. In Marysville, the city is arguing the ballpark is being subsidized — a claim disputed by Gold Sox ownership.

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