Lackawanna County approves sale of Scranton franchise

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An artist's rendering of the proposed renovations to Scranton's PNC Field.

Lackawanna County, owners of the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre franchise, have agreed to sell the team to the Yankees and Mandalay Baseball Properties for $14.6 million. The new owners will sign a 30-year lease with Scranton and have pledged $40 million for stadium renovations, David Singleton of The Times Tribune reported last night.

The Yankees had originally expressed interest in purchasing the team back in September, but political wrangling held up the sale for a few months. Even still, Luzerne County, passive part-owners of the Scranton franchise, is making noises about holding up the deal. That’s Pennsylvania county politics for you.

As Donnie Collins outlines, the sale will come with new terms attached. In addition to the stadium renovation funds, the team’s rent will increase from $150,000 to $750,000, and the least continues an option that could keep the franchise in place for 50 years. The Scranton stadium authority could repurchase the ballpark if the franchise relocates or ends its Yankee affiliation. New York, however, has been inclined to keep the team in Scranton due to the proximity factor. It is only a two-hour drive from the Majors to the AAA.

Overall, the Yankees are committing $37 million to the region, and while local politicians are wary about chipping in a few million in taxpayer dollars as part of the matching funds for the stadium renovation, they recognize its better than losing the team.

As for the renovations, they are extensive. Stadium capacity will drop from 10,500 to between 8000-8500, and the entire park will be overhauled. David Singleton offers up this take:

Under the proposal, only four elements of the existing stadium would be retained: the lower seating bowl, the playing field, the home locker room and the parking lots, Mr. Schmitt said. Everything else, including the upper-level deck, would be demolished.

The rebuilt stadium would have an elevated single- or double-tier of suites, club seats and media facilities behind home plate, but the rest of the seating would be on or below a concourse that would wrap around the entire playing field like a promenade, he said.

The promenade concept, now popular at many major and minor league stadiums, allows fans to view the game from multiple vantage points, he said. “The idea of a promenade lends itself, we think, to the very leisurely and social aspect of attending a ballgame,” [architect Craig] Schmitt said.

It’s a safe bet to assume that the Yanks will extend their PDC with Scranton well beyond the current 2014 expiration date. For minor league fans in Central Pennsylvania, baseball is seemingly there to stay.

Jeter, Cano Teixeira take home Gold Glove awards
Open Thread: Are you ready for some football?
  • Jake LaMotta’s Left Hook

    Good thing this isn’t as bad as Howard Baldwin buying the Hartforld Wolfpack (the Rangers AHL affiliate) to be all nostalgic and get his old Hartford Whalers back in the form of the CT Whale, and thus completely ruining the franchise in Hartford.

    • T-Dubs

      Heard kid. I saw the new mascot at a bar in Hartford this weekend and I wanted to throw him into traffic. I also had a pipe dream of a Big 4 sports team relocating to CT and taking the name “Whalers.” An NFL team called the whalers would be so awesome. But alas, fucked.

  • Plank

    Overall, the Yankees are committing $37 million to the region, and while local politicians are wary about chipping in a few million in taxpayer dollars as part of the matching funds for the stadium renovation, they recognize its better than losing the team.

    That’s assuming that if the Yankees leave, a new team will not move in. That’s not realistic. I would be, and unfortunately often am, pissed whenever money goes from taxpayer funds to sports teams. If there was extra money maybe, but not when teachers are getting fired.

    • Benjamin Kabak

      I’m not at all in favor of municipal tax-dollar spending on sports stadium, but I have to believe that the $4 million contribution from the county should be off-set by the sale and higher rent payments over the duration of the contract. This isn’t the $611 million DC gave to the Nationals for their new stadium.

      • Plank

        I understand in the grand scheme of things, the local gov’t didn’t put too much money into this compared to others, but I object to the fact that only donating a few million is considered a win. The entire debate needs to be re-framed away from “how much money or tax breaks should we give the team?”

        • Benjamin Kabak

          At some point, if the terms are structured right, municipalities will enjoy a benefit though. Let’s say the redesigned stadium leads to higher attendance which leads to more tax dollars for Lackawanna County. Should the Yankees/Mandalay be expect to foot all of the costs while the County reaps those benefits? Perhaps the answer’s yes. I wouldn’t disagree with you if you said that.

          I think the bigger issue are large cities giving away tax-free bonds for no reason.

          • Plank

            What large city gave away tax-free bonds for no reason?


          • Plank

            The more revenue argument is the used every time public funding of stadiums (I refuse to stay stadia) comes up. I think it is very overblown. If there were no minor league team in Scranton (which, again wouldn’t happen if the Yanks left), the citizens of Scranton would either spend their money at other places like movie theaters, or save their money to be in a stronger position in the future.

            The argument that the government benefits from paying money to these companies usually involves the absolute most optimistic projections for the financial future. The projection is always a slight benefit to the government and it almost never comes true.

            The argument could also be made that the government should see a bigger “return on investment” since they are risking so much of their money.

            • mbonzo

              Scarnton is far from an MLB team but I’m sure it employs a lot of people and brings in revenue to the restaurants, movie theaters, transportation, etc. in the area. After what happened to NY in the 50’s, municipalities cringe when they start to discuss contracts with local sports teams.

              • Plank

                Yup, that’s the argument.

                The problem is the financial gain (to the community) of the team being there almost never equals the amount the communities give to the teams.

                Check out

                Neil deMause has been doing a great job covering this stuff for years.

                Part of the problem is the teams pay millions to professional negotiators to go up against town councilmen who get talked into it by very smart people and when sports stars come and schmooze them until they agree to give the team taxpayer money.

                • king of fruitless hypotheticals

                  while interesting academically, did you do the math? its a great deal…

  • pat

    I bet there’s gonna be a moat to separate the elitist 20 dollar ticket holders from the rest of the scum. The Yankees love that sh*t.

  • ZZ

    First order of business is taken care of the drainage problem. That field is an absolute joke.

    • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      Makes it tough for those trained-observers to get accurate reads on defensive plays for their UZR inputs. Subjective.

      • ZZ

        If only we had UZR for the minor leagues. Debating Eduardo Nunez’s defense would be a lot more fun. One day.

        • Plank

          I’m all for new stats and I’m glad we have them, but I think they made debating the worth of players a lot less fun. Especially WAR.

          • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            That doesn’t make sense.

            • Plank

              Why not?

              • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

                How does adding more new perspectives to a debate make that debate less fun? If anything, it’s given these debates another layer that you can argue over.

                • Plank

                  That’s a good point. But if people are debating whether player A or B is better, it quickly gets settled by who had a higher WAR with both people agreeing on the result.

                  It’s a lot less messy, but I think it was more fun when the answers to these questions was a lot more fuzzy.

                  Is Carl Crawford better than Adam Dunn? They are 2 very different players, and debating with a friend used to be a lot more fun.

                  Again, I’m not saying I don’t like WAR or other advanced metrics (I do), just that for me, it makes the debate less fun.

        • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          “Debating Eduardo Nunez’s defense would be a lot more fun.”

          You can’t be sure that it would be fun, that’s subjective.

          • Benjamin Kabak
            • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

              In order to declare what Mondesi is doing “off topic commenting”, first you have to specify what his topic actually is.

              • ZZ

                His topic is attempting to bust ZZ balls.

                • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                  That is a highly subjective opinion and one that I would say most people agree with.

                  • MattG

                    I don’t get it.

        • Thomas

          Nunez’s range factor was a 3.96 as a SS in AAA this year. The major league average range factor for SS was 4.36. Oh noooes!

  • Pat D

    That’s Pennsylvania county politics for you.

    As a resident of Pennsylvania, not all that far from Scranton, I’d like to challenge you on this statement. Sadly, I don’t give a shit about Pennsylvania county politics. I don’t live in either of those counties, so why should I care?

    For minor league fans in Central Pennsylvania, baseball is seemingly there to stay.

    I will quibble with this. Scranton would really still be considered Eastern Pennsylvania. And maybe now I’ll do something about getting up to one of their games this year. I still refuse to go to the Iron Pigs’ stadium, even though it’s right next to where I work, mainly because they’re a Phillies affiliate, and because I should go see my team’s affiliate first. Right?

  • R.D. Frable

    When’s the next significant date in Luzerne County’s suit for half of the sale proceeds? Email me offsite if you like.

  • 1Yankeefan

    You fellows show take at this interesting read in the Sunday Scranton Times Front Page

    And this is the Memo of Understanding

    This is a great deal for the Yankees but not for the Taxpayers. Can you sat BOHICA?