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MiLB teams face hardships with 2020 season on hold

Minor League Baseball logoWith the 2020 season on hold, Minor League Baseball teams at every level of the sport are facing the financial crunch of having no gate and concessions revenues flowing into team coffers.

That the sport is seeking layoffs from virtually every team is not a surprise, and those employees who remain are subject to some furloughs or pay cuts. The government-ordered shutdown of the economy is harming everyone–even the most well-run teams in the sport.

“Will it put our organization at risk? I don’t think so. Will we be a team that needs to tighten our belts? Absolutely,” said Naomi Silver, president and CEO of the Rochester Red Wings (Class AAA; International League), to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. “We’ll be OK. We don’t keep a whole lot of money in reserve. … So we’re facing the same thing other businesses are facing. I don’t know that anybody is going to come out of this completely unscathed.”

What could help teams throughout these tough times: loans to small businesses issued via the Federal Emergency Stimulus Funding (CARES Act). Many teams were expected to apply for these funds. That’s the case with the Omaha Storm Chasers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), who are working with Werner Park landlord Sarpy County on deferring lease and other payments with repayment expected with CARES Act funds. From the Omaha World-Herald:

A letter sent this month to the county from Martie Cordaro, the Chasers’ president and general manager, indicated that the team was making contingency plans because of lost revenue. The letter, dated April 3, requested a delay in two payments: a $238,230 semiannual lease payment due June 1, and a $40,000 payment due April 1 for a scoreboard that was installed in 2015. An $11,000 payment related to stadium improvements for Omaha’s new professional soccer team also was due April 1.

But delaying the lease payment probably won’t be necessary. The Storm Chasers have been approved for a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan that helps small businesses pay for expenses like employee pay, rent and utility bills, Cordaro said. The county has given the team until May 7 to make the payments that were due April 1.

The team is applying for other federal money, too. Dan Hoins, Sarpy County’s administrator, said the organization has indicated that it has the capacity to make upcoming payments even without federal funding.

“At this point, I don’t anticipate it being a problem,” Hoins said. “They’ll either pay it with their funds, or they’ll pay it with a disaster loan.”

We’ve received word from other MiLB team officials that they’ve been approved down stimulus funds. Not the ideal way to do business, of course — the Storm Chasers would rather be selling beer and brats at the season opener scheduled for tonight — but under the circumstances, not the worst outcome, either. Some teams are stepping up to cover pay for game-day employees impacted by the stay-at-home orders, such as the Portland Sea Dogs (Class AA; Eastern League).

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