Tuesday marked a shift for baseball in Syracuse, as the New York Mets announced their purchase of the Syracuse Chiefs (Class AAA; International League).
News of the purchase first surfaced on Monday, and it was immediately clear then that the transaction would have an interesting effect on baseball’s affiliation landscape. The Chiefs currently have a player development contract (PDC) in place with the Washington Nationals that runs through 2018, but the purchase facilitates the Mets’ eventual shift of their Triple-A affiliate to Syracuse from Las Vegas.
It was announced on Tuesday that the Mets are moving forward with their purchase of the Chiefs. According to an announcement from the team, the transaction is pending several layers of approval. That includes stockholders of the Community Baseball Club of Central New York–the Chiefs long-time owner–along with professional baseball, and Onondaga County, as the county holds the lease to NBT Bank Stadium, the Chiefs’ home.
In addition, the Mets said that they expect to keep current Chiefs general manager Jason Smorol in place and will honor the team’s commitment to NBT Bank Stadium that runs through the 2025 season. What happens beyond that period remains to be seen, but Mets COO Jeff Wilpon discussed the potential for ballpark upgrades. More from Syracuse.com:
“Anything can happen,” Smorol said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. The Mets are committed to being here. Today is day one. And we’ll see what happens.”
The 2025 season is key because that’s when the Chiefs’ current lease with the county to play in NBT Bank Stadium runs out. Wilpon said the Mets are open to helping fund some park improvements, but that the county will run it.
“We’ve given our word that we’re going to be here,” Wilpon said. “There’s some things in the agreement that I can’t go into. But we plan to be here long-term. We’re going to bring some capital to the ballpark. They’ve told us that we’ll have a conversation about the county and the state bringing some capital to improve it. I know there’s a lot of changes going around near the ballpark here that they’ve talked to me about. And I think all that adds up to a long-term relationship.”
One factor that will surely be watched going forward is whether the presence of a New York-based parent club helps the Chiefs on the attendance front. The club has been an affiliate of Nationals since 2009, and spent 30 years prior to that as an affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. With the Mets set to take over as both the parent club and owner, it will be a priority to boost attendance and revenue numbers. More from Syracuse.com:
The Chiefs squeezed out a small profit of $67,108 in 2016. But the team was in the red the previous three years. The Chiefs lost $973,516 in 2013, $241,584 in 2014 and $169,011 in 2015. The team has not released its 2017 results yet.
The team drew an average of 4,636 fans a game in 2017, an increase from 4,158 in 2016. It drew an average of just 3,743 a game in 2014 and 3,803 a game in 2015.
Though the trend in attendance was up the past two years, there were still a lot of empty seats at most games. The stadium holds 11,071.
The struggle to stay out of the red was very much a part of the decision by the team’s long-time owner, the Community Baseball Club of Central New York Inc., to seek a buyer.
“There’s just not enough capital to keep this going,” said Smorol.
For the Mets, this purchase–if approved–will give them a solid contingent of New York-based affiliates. The team’s farm system already includes the Brooklyn Cyclones (Short Season A; NY-Penn League) and the Binghamton Rumble Ponies (Class AA; Eastern League). It would also mark the Chiefs’ first New York-based parent club since 1977, their final season as an affiliate of the New York Yankees. Our Affiliate Dance page will be keeping track of all of the latest PDC-related stories.
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