I’ve already marveled this week at Worcester offering more than $100 million in subsidies to lure to town a Triple-A team that it could probably outright buy for $20 million, but no city would be dumb enough to sell a team it already owns and then offer subsidies to the new owners to keep it in town, right? Oh, ye of little faith:
Baseball fans can look forward to a major upgrade of Syracuse’s minor-league stadium if Onondaga County officials can pull together a renovation project that could cost $25 million or more.
The ambitious renovation, which depends on state funding that is not yet guaranteed, aims to make sure the new owners of the local Triple-A team, the New York Mets, stay in Syracuse for the long term.
Okay, the Syracuse Chiefs weren’t actually owned by Onondaga County; they were owned by a community public corporation, much like the Green Bay Packers. But the corporation agreed to sell the team to the New York Mets owners last year, and nobody thought to include a lease extension as part of the deal, meaning the team could now leave town as soon as 2025. (Yes, the whole point of the Mets buying the Chiefs was to have a Triple-A team close to their big-league club, but there’s no stopping them from looking for the next Worcester elsewhere in the Northeast.) And so now the county is looking at renovating the team’s stadium to keep its new owners happy, because, in the memorable words of county chair Ryan McMahon: “The reality is, we can’t keep a Triple-A baseball team [here] with a 25-year-old facility.”
And as the cherry on top, Empire State Development, New York state’s economic development agency, is looking at getting involved, which could mean state taxpayers — including those all the way south in New York City, including yours truly — could soon be on the hook for subsidies to keep a team from leaving Syracuse. Maybe I shouldn’t have been quite so sanguine about the promise of community ownership, huh?