While other entertainment venues and operators have received federal grants after COVID-related losses, MiLB and independent owners were left out in the cold–until now, with a proposed Minor League Baseball Relief Act.
Many venues received federal funds from the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant, designed to bail out concert and music vendors closed because of COVID restrictions. But conspicuously absent in this bill was any support for Minor League Baseball owners. Now, a bipartisan group of senators–including Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Mark Warner (D-VA) and Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and David McKinley (R-WV)–want to address that oversight with the Minor League Baseball Relief Act, which would offer pro baseball teams across the country (including independent teams and teams eliminated as part of MLB’s downsizing of MiLB, but no MiLB teams owned by MLB teams) Small Business Administration grants up to 45 percent of their 2019 revenue, with a total cap of $10 million. This money would come from unused COVID-19 relief funds allocated in prior legislation. You may have seen letters from MiLB teams asking for support of the measure; Warner was also making appearances over the Independence Day weekend urging support for the measure. From the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star:
After introductions, Warner laid out what he believes to be the best path for passage. The bill likely won’t be debated on the Senate floor and will therefore need to be attached to a piece of “can’t-fail” legislation, such as the infrastructure deal.
“I really think we need to get this attached to something clearly before Thanksgiving,” he said. “And hopefully even earlier than that.”
One notion Warner floated that could broaden the bill’s appeal is a state match, wherein the federal government would pay the majority (for example, 80 cents of every dollar) and states would cover the rest.
Some states have already done this; Wisconsin, for example, has allocated relief funds for owners and operators of all minor-league sports teams, including summer-collegiate and hockey.