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Luzerne/Lackawanna Litigation to Drag into 2017

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders

After spending years in limbo, the dispute between Lackawanna and Luzerne counties over the sale of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (Class AAA; International League) could come to a head in 2017. 

Our archives have numerous details on this story, which stretches back several years. In 2012, the then-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees were sold to the New York Yankees and Mandalay Baseball for $14.6 million. That transaction prompted a dispute between the two continues, which had jointly owned the team. Luzerne contended that the original agreement between the two governing bodies granted it $7.3 million, which was half the price of the sale.

Lackawanna, meanwhile, said that it was allowed to keep the proceeds from the sale, because funds were redirected toward the massive overhaul of PNC Field that took place before the 2013 season and ensured that the team would remain in the area. The dispute was intensifying just as the ballpark reopened, and remained a matter of concern the following spring.

With 2016 turning to 2017, the issue remains unresolved. However, officials from both counties have said that they would like to see some resolution in the new year. More from The Sunday Dispatch:

County Chief Solicitor Romilda Crocamo said last week the county will reach out to Lackawanna County.

“A significant amount of discovery has been completed, and we are at a point where we will attempt to negotiate in good faith,” Crocamo said, stressing her office has been in “constant communication” with the Pittsburgh-based firm Murray, Hogue and Lannis representing Luzerne County.

Lackawanna County’s general counsel, Donald Frederickson, said his county has had a “good working relationship” with Luzerne County in other areas and is open to settlement discussions.

“Lackawanna County looks forward to working with our neighbor to the south in a friendly and amicable way,” Frederickson said. “We’d like to resolve this litigation if we can. Government against government is not good because it costs the taxpayers money.”

Frederickson said he believes his county has a “solid case” seeking reimbursement for stadium costs.

“Their suit wants half of the sales price of the team. Ours then wants half of the cost to keep the team here, and our half far exceeded theirs,” he said, citing a total $60 million tab tied to the PNC Field baseball stadium in Moosic. “Bringing the team here is one thing, but you have to keep it here.”

PNC Field opened in 1989, and was in need of a major renovation by the beginning of this decade. Work on the ballpark largely took place over the 2012 season, forcing the Yankees to split their home schedule among several different ballparks before returning to a revamped facility in 2013 as the RailRiders.

RELATED STORIES: Year after RailRiders debut; SWB counties still in legal fight; RailRiders ownership spat likely to go to court; PNC Field renovation continues, but court battle for Yankees looms; Sale, ballpark issues for SWB Yankees settled; Luzerne County: SWB Yankees worth at least $25 million

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