After months of negotiations, the Billings Mustangs (Rookie; Pioneer League) and the City of Billings may be closer to a new lease agreement for Dehler Park.
The two sides have continued negotiations on a new lease for the Mustangs, who are seeking to map out long-term plans relating to maintenance and ballpark upgrades among other items. On Wednesday, Main Street Baseball’s Dave Heller and a city council committee discussed some issues relating to the agreement, a conversation that came after the two sides exchanged proposals earlier in the week.
During the course of that conversation, the two sides discussed the makeup of a proposed committee that will oversee ballpark maintenance, funding sources for facility improvements, worked to define which party is responsible for certain projects, and who will cover the cost of trash removal.
The next step will come on Friday, when Heller will be in a telephone call with a group of city officials that includes city administrator Tina Volek. Following that call, the two sides could be able to come closer to moving forward with a proposal. More from The Billings Gazette:
Volek and Heller are scheduled to discuss any remaining differences on the lease during their telephone call on Friday.
In a Wednesday evening statement, Mayor Tom Hanel said the negotiations have “carried on far too long and become extremely convoluted.”
“In respect to the City, taxpayers, baseball fans and certainly the future of the Mustangs — all of which are critical to the future of Billings — I am highly recommending that the City and the Mustangs revert back to the November 2016 proposal, which was very workable, and move on,” Hanel said.
“Any argument over the value of naming rights is highly unpredictable,” the mayor said. “The annual contribution by both the City and the Mustangs can be easily agreed upon and was very close at one point, as were the concessions revenue.”
If Heller and Volek reach agreement during their Friday conversation, the council committee formed to help with the negotiations may not have to meet again, said Dick Clark, committee chair.
The Gazette also notes that the committee involved in the negotiations, “decided to return to an earlier proposal that predated a suggestion by the city’s Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Committee that the city receive a percentage of field naming rights,” as the name Dehler Park is set to be in place until at least June 2032. When it was proposed in November, the lease extension was conceived to run through the end of 2026, but could be extended another 10 years.