Details emerge in Scranton Yanks sale dispute

What Went Wrong: A.J. Burnett
Posey, Feliz named Rookies of the Year
An artist's rendering of the proposed renovations to Scranton's PNC Field.

We reported last week on the impending sale of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre AAA franchise to the Yankees and Mandalay Bay. At the time, the details included a $40-million stadium renovation plan and a $14.8-million price tag on the franchise. But since then, more information has come to light that sheds a less-than-flattering light on the stadium shenanigans.

Currently, two parallel disputes have the potential to plague the project. The first is a lawsuit brought by Luzerne County officials. They claim that because they ponied up $1 million in 1986 — or half of the purchase price for the franchise — they are now owed half of the money from the impending sale. Lackawanna County, the physical home of the franchise and selling party, filed a countersuit requesting $20 million or half of what it has spent on baseball. The impending lawsuits will derail immediate plans to use the proceeds from the stadium sale.

Meanwhile, the sale and sweetheart terms of the agreement — more on that in a second — seem to be the product of intense lobbying by Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. As The Times-Tribune reported yesterday, Rendell was a driving factor behind the sale and pledged $20 million in state money to fund the ballpark renovations as well. He didn’t do anything wrong or illegal, but his actions have led to the tensions in Northeast Pennsylvania.

Furthermore, now that details of the lease agreement have leaked, this deal is looking more and more like a losing proposition for the taxpayers of Pennsylvania. The $14.7 million the county will receive from the purchase of the franchise is to be reinvested in stadium upgrades, and the state will add in another $20 million. Neither the SWB Yankees nor the purchasing entity — the New York Yankees and Mandalay Bay — would have to chip in any additional money for the stadium upgrades. If the renovations come in under budget, the remaining dollars will be held in a sinking fund for future improvements and repairs.

And so what we have is yet another municipal stadium mess. Lackawanna County contends that baseball will depart from Northeast Pennsylvania without this investment while Luzerne County claims the sale price of the franchise is too low. More than $7 million from the purchase of the team will be held by the court, and the battle — and state’s and city’s willingness to fork over $40 million in taxpayer dollars with dubious fiscal returns — will loom over the 2011 AAA season.

After the jump, I’ve posted the Memorandum of Understanding between the Multi-Purpose Stadium Authority of Lackawanna County and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. It highlights how much of a good deal the franchise is getting in this sale.


What Went Wrong: A.J. Burnett
Posey, Feliz named Rookies of the Year
  • Monteroisdinero

    Get Jesus outta there!

  • Hughesus Christo

    I’m sure Tom Corbett would LOVE to make killing this deal one of his first moves in office. This is political gold.

  • Mike R

    It’s a good thing that NEPA politicians are made only of the strongest moral fiber [/sarcasm]

  • Tim

    Screw em. Move the team again somewhere else. Connecticut would love to take a Yankee AAA team. There is no reason why the Yankees can’t say too much trouble see ya…

    • king of fruitless hypotheticals

      but the Yanks don’t own the SWB’s yet do they? I thought that was the whole point–they don’t own them, and want to buy them and get a new stadium.

    • Plank

      The Yanks signed a PDC through 2014 I believe. They can’t just leave until then. I’m sure if a suitable replacement affiliate was put in place the Scranton Yankees (Red Barons) would gladly let them walk.

  • Plank

    I have a feeling this is going to get messy.

    The Yanks and NEPA’s version of Tammany Hall got too greedy and the spotlight is starting to shine on them.

    I love the Yankees. I understand they are a big corporation trying to squeeze profits from anywhere. That’s fine, but this is going a bit too far. Sheesh.