Business of Baseball Reportby Brian Borawski
May 18, 2005
Twins Get Closer to New Stadium
With the clock ticking, it appears that the Twins/Hennepin Stadium bill is getting closer to clearing the second of four Minnesota House of Representative’s committees. With the bill now before the Local Governments Committee, an amendment that would have allowed a public referendum narrowly failed Monday night by a 10-9 vote. The committee was supposed to reconvene this morning with a fresh set of amendments set to be presented by the bill's opponents.
While it looks like the bill has enough support, time is ticking away in the current legislative session. I want to thank a reader who informed that the session doesn’t end Friday like I originally reported. It actually ends this Monday.
Comcast is Playing Hardball
Nationals’ fans who are Comcast subscribers are caught in the middle of the dispute between Comcast and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN). At least for the time being, the only way to see the Nationals is via DirecTV and RCN; Comcast snubbed MASN because it currently has a dispute with the Baltimore Orioles, whose telecasts are going to move to MASN in 2007. Because the most recent proposal doesn’t acknowledge or compensate Comcast for MASN apparent breach of legal rights, Comcast is not going to cooperate with MASN. The details of the dispute were explained in a previous update.
Sale of Nationals Imminent…. In Selig Speak
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig made public that he’s still targeting a mid-summer date to sell the team despite the ongoing dispute between Comcast and MASN. This is all despite the fact that interviews with the potential ownership groups to discuss their vision for the team haven’t even been scheduled yet. Bids for the team are due on May 31, and it’s highly unlikely the Comcast/MASN lawsuit will be resolved by then.
If we use the Expos relocation as an example, we can expect the team to be sold some time in 2007.
Dodgers Commit to LA
Los Angeles Dodger’s owner Frank McCourt recently received a $250 million, 25-year loan that allows him to consolidate the debts he incurred when he purchased the team. While the source of the financing wasn’t revealed outside of saying it was a group of unidentified institutional investors, it gives McCourt the ability to pay off the $150 million in short term financing he had with Bank of America, along with $71 million in seller financing that was provided by Fox.
The biggest term of the loan is that for 25 years, the Dodgers cannot have a change of control of the team or a change in where they play. It also gives the team a little more financial flexibility, and while nothing has been promised, it does enhance the ability of the team to add payroll.
MLB Issues Ultimatum to Miami/Dade County
With Bud Selig swapping letters with Don Fehr about steroid, the news letter comes from Selig's primary henchman, MLB President Bob DuPuy. In the letter, he basically tells Miami/Dade leaders to approve the Marlin’s new stadium financing plan by June 9th, or else. From the recent news article in the Miami Herald, several politicians don’t feel very threatened because these “ultimatums” have come and gone in the past.
DuPuy offers three suggestions, all of which make appear to show he's living in some sort of vacuum. His first suggestion was to hold a public referendum to raise more public money, which politicians feel have no chance of happening. His other ideas include convincing the state to provide funds (tried and failed) and increasing contribution from the city, county and the team.
The major road block, which is why the Twins face a race against the clock, is the state legislature has ended. The only way to get them back on the job is for Governor Jeb Bush to call a special session. Governor Bush said he’d need support from the Senate before doing this, and he can’t see anything happening by the June 9th deadline.
My prediction is we’ll see a lot of people talking. MLB executives, politicians, and Marlins team officials will all be opining on what should be done to meet MLB’s mandate. In the end, we’ll see the deadline pass, and we’ll see some more threats to move the team, and it will all end up being even more posturing for the next round in the eventual (the owners always end up getting their way) free stadium financing giveaway in Miami.
Anaheim Needs Support of Angels for Possible Development
In what could be one of those interesting ironies, the city of Anaheim is faced with a potential dilemma. A portion of Angel Stadium’s parking lot that is a proposed site for a potential NFL franchise is controlled by the city, but pursuant to the lease that’s currently in place, the property’s uses are limited. One of those uses is for a football stadium, so no problem if they can land a team.
If the NFL snubs Anaheim and they don’t get a team, the land would have its greatest value if high-density housing can be built there. However, that’s not one of the allowed uses of the land under the lease, so they’d need to get approval by the Angels to amend the lease. This is the same lease that the city of Anaheim is currently suing the Angels over because they changed their name to include “Los Angeles.”
The city has said that they won’t trade the name change for approval to use the land for residential purposes. One city councilman said they’d end up selling the land instead of developing it themselves and in effect, having to sell out to the team.
Brian Borawski is a member of SABR's Business of Baseball Committee and writes about the Detroit Tigers at his own website, TigerBlog. He welcomes comments, questions and suggestions via e-mail.