California city terminates minor-league team’s lease on grounds giving away money is illegal

Back when they were filing lawsuits against the Phoenix Coyotes‘ arena deal every week or so, the libertarian Goldwater Institute at one point suggested it might challenge the team’s sweetheart lease as a violation of the state constitution because it represented represented an unlawful gift to a private enterprise. Goldwater never went ahead with that particular suit, but now the city of Adelanto, California is trying a similar tack to rework its lease with the minor-league High Desert Mavericks baseball team:

The Adelanto City Council on Wednesday night voted unanimously to terminate its stadium agreement with the ownership of the High Desert Mavericks…

The city says the public facility use agreement struck in 2012 violates the state Constitution and is essentially a “gift of public funds” in that the majority benefit is skewed toward the minor league baseball team. City officials say Adelanto has spent $2 million on maintenance obligations since August 2012 and yet Mavericks ownership Main Street Baseball, LLC pays $1 annually to lease use of Stater Bros. Stadium.

The Mavericks owners fired back with an “Oh, no, you don’t!” open letter, followed by a request to go to arbitration. They also insisted that the $1-a-year lease serves a public purpose because the lease says it does, so there. (Not quite in that language, but pretty close.)

Apparently a bunch of states have these kinds of gift clauses in their constitutions, and they’re almost always ignored, because not ever giving public funds to private entities for no public purpose would be un-American. This is the first time I can recall an actual elected body trying to void a lease on these grounds, so I guess I’m going to have to add the Victorville Daily Press to my reading list to keep up with how this fight goes.

One comment on “California city terminates minor-league team’s lease on grounds giving away money is illegal

  1. I’ve asked about this a million times, and I’ve always considered this to be a gift of public funds.

    Here’s how they got away with this in Sacramento: The arena is owned by the City, and because of the generous contributions from private companies, the City was able to pay for the whole thing. It’s just that the private company gets control of all events at the arena.

    Aren’t they generous? It makes me feel so good to be a fan of a team that does so many wonderful things! /sarcasm