Archive for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees
Via Josh Leventhal and Everett Merrill, the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees will have to play all of their home games on the road next year while PNC Field undergoes a $40M renovation project. The International League has tentatively approved the team’s plans to play at an alternate location in 2012, and they has until Sept. 20th to submit a final proposal.
At the moment, the club is considering six alternate locations, but league president Randy Mobley decline to name them. “Generally speaking, we are considering existing league facilities and others outside the league,” he said. Lehigh Valley, about an hour south, of Scranton is one possibility, as is Ottawa. The league had a team in Canada’s capitol until 2007. Another interesting possibility: Staten Island. The Yankees would love the proximity to the big league team, and since Short Season Staten Island doesn’t begin play until late-June, there would be less scheduling conflicts. Now that would be conveniently awesome.
Oh, no not Brian Cashman. My bad. I’m talking about Triple-A Scranton GM Jeremy Ruby, who resigned to take over as the athletic director of the Abington Heights School District. His responsibilities will also include “working on ways to help the district raise funds to address an ever-widening gap between the district’s income and expenses.” Ruby had been with the Scranton franchise since 1999, when it was it a Phillies affiliate.
A minor league GM is a manager in the more traditional sense. He/she won’t sign or trade for players, but they make sure everything is running smoothly. Minor league clubs are businesses and are there to make money, and someone has to oversee that operation.
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. Read More→
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.
The Yankees will be in Scranton through at least 2014, the club announced yesterday. The big league organization has opted to extend its player development agreement with its AAA franchise to cover the next four seasons. Additionally, SWB Yankees LLC, the joint venture between the Yankees and Mandalay Bay that manages the team, has also re-upped its agreement for the same length of time.
“We remain committed to having our Triple-A franchise in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre,” Yanks’ COO Lonn Trost said. “The market offers us an excellent combination of business opportunities as well as player development and baseball operations efficiencies. We are delighted to be extending our relationships in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.”
Scranton has been home to the Yanks’ Triple-A affiliate since 2007, when the team left Columbus after a 28 year relationship. The team made the move to bring its highest level minor league affiliate closer to New York, and it doesn’t get any closer than Scranton. The PDC extension is good news yet unsurprising because it really is a match made in Triple-A heaven. With a strong fan base, geographically favorable and good business opportunities, it just makes sense for both sides.
Despite this convenience, a PDC renewal was no sure thing last year. As the Yanks adjusted to life in Scranton, the club found that the ballpark needed $13 million in upgrades due to a bad drainage system, and Scranton was not too keen on building a new stadium for the team. Still, the Yanks are committed to working through these problems.
“We look forward to continuing to work with county leadership and members of the Multi-Purpose Stadium Authority of Lackawanna County to develop a plan to significantly improve the current stadium or replace it with a new one,” Trost said.
With this news, Kei Igawa too stands to benefit as he’ll have a few more years to build on his career franchise-record win total.
Additional reporting by Benjamin Kabak
On April 1st, Triple-A Scranton will head down I-476 to take on Double-A Trenton in an exhibition game at Trenton’s beautiful Waterfront Park. As Chad Jennings notes, the 2007 Trenton Thunder team, the Double-A Eastern League champs, will be honored before the game. This is a pretty cool idea by the Yanks, of course this wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining without the farm system Cashman & Co. have built.
Frankie Cervelli, Justin Christian, Colin Curtis, Eric Duncan, Brett Gardner, Edwar Gonzalez, Alan Horne, Austin Jackson, Jeff Marquez, Dan McCutchen, Juan Miranda, Scott Patterson, PJ Piliterre, David Robertson, Jose Tabata, Marcos Vechionacci, Kevin Whelan, Steven White. All on the same field. Tickets go on sale Monday, get yours here.
The Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees have a blog! My how the world of blogging beat writers has grown.
(hat tip to Mr. Negativity…just kiddin’ Steve)