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MiLB teams face lease issues with MLB reorg

Minor League Baseball logoMany MiLB teams are facing lease issues after the takeover of the sport by Major League Baseball, with many ballpark agreements specifying terms applying to franchises part of the National Association.

We’re seeing teams formerly part of the 160-team Minor League Baseball system losing their ballparks because their leases specify that a team must be a member of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, have a MLB affiliation, or operate at a specific level of play (AAA, AA or A). Some teams operating outside the new 120-team Minor League Baseball system have been seeking to keep their ballpark leases as they explore independent-baseball memberships or summer-collegiate play in 2021 and 2022. Some of the lost leases have not been announced, while others have: for instance, the Jackson Generals lost their ballpark lease because they were excluded from the new Minor League Baseball, though there are other issues at play, according to this Facebook post from Jackson Mayor Scott Conger:

In December, we were disappointed when Major League Baseball announced the elimination of 40 Minor League Baseball teams including our Jackson Generals. We see a lot of potential for this stadium and are committed to continuing the tradition of family fun and entertainment. Several organizations across the United States have already expressed an interest in the stadium. We have a highly desirable location and facility and are competitive with potential tenants. Per the terms of our contract with tenant Jackson Baseball Club/David Freeman, our lease agreement was automatically terminated when Major League Baseball decided not to have a team in Jackson.

Legal investigations for misuse of taxpayer funds by the Jackson Baseball Club are underway by both the State Comptroller’s Office and from an independent firm. Due to this, we felt it best to let the investigations conclude before entering into new negotiations with the current tenant. MLB made their decision before the investigations could conclude.

We are conducting a nationwide search to explore entertainment options with new tenants that will be a better fit for our community. This could be a baseball team, a concert venue, soccer team, etc. If you have a unique idea, we’d love to hear it- submit it below.

(Some background: the city has been auditing invoices submitted by the Generals to the city, as a local newspaper investigation accused the team of seeking reimbursements for in-kind trades the Generals made with local businesses.)

The lease issues also extend to the teams invited to be part of the new Minor League Baseball. In South Carolina, the Columbia Fireflies and the city altered the lease for Segra Park to loosen some of the requirements for continued occupation of the ballpark, per The State:

On Tuesday, the city’s resolution changed the language in the “professional baseball” section of the team’s covenant in the lease. The previous language read, in part, that the team “shall at all times throughout the term own a club that (a) is a full-season Class A (or higher) minor league baseball team in a league that is a member of the (National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues), (b) has a player development contract associated with a MLB franchise, and (c) is authorized by NAPBL.”

Under the new language, Hardball “agrees to provide and maintain a high quality, well operated professional baseball club in a professional baseball league (MLB affiliated or independent) with paid players, scheduled to play no fewer than 50 home games per season, and providing first class, family friendly entertainment.”

The amended language also says that, if the team changes leagues or levels of play, it must be approved by the city. That approval would come after the conclusion of the first year in such a new league or level, so that the city has the ability to assess the quality of the product being offered.

Right now the Fireflies are slated to play as a Low-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.

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