The Double-A Winston-Salem Dash have renegotiated their lease with the city on 11-year-old Truist Stadium to reduce their annual lease payments, and you’ll never believe why the city council went along with it. Okay, you’ll totally believe it:
In the short term at least, the amount of the annual lease will drop dramatically: from about $1.6 million per year to $750,000 per year, and that lower payment also comes with the elimination of an annual ticket surcharge the city collects to the tune of $175,000 per year.
The new lease emerged in negotiations last fall, when team owners told the city they need a lower lease payment to secure the presence of the team here.
Under a downsizing announced last year, some 40 cities are losing their minor-league teams as Major League Baseball reduces its number of farm teams from around 160 to around 120 teams.
City and team officials said the new lease arrangement would bolster the team’s chances of staying.
I hate to say I told you so, but — okay, I love to say I told you so:
Going forward, it will be up to the league office in New York to determine which teams live or die, which means central-office functionaries can deny your city a team by fiat if local officials don’t cough up sufficient protection money for some new scoreboards and upgraded clubhouses.
It’s a little tricky to figure out exactly how much the Dash owners will be saving under the revised lease, since they’ll be making lower lease payments at first, but they’ll rise each year and last longer. By my calculations, the old lease payments of $1.775 million per year through 2039 would have been worth about $21.45 million in present value; $750,000 a year scaling up to $1.2 million a year by 2045 is worth a little under $14 million in present value, so the team owners are saving about $7 million via the new deal.
That’s not a huge amount of money, on the one hand — not compared to the $48.7 million in taxpayer cash Winston-Salem poured into building the stadium in the first place, an outlay that left city officials promising to do better oversight in the future, ha ha ha — but it is $7 million that the owners wouldn’t have gotten without the leverage that MLB’s minor-league contraction plan gave them. If enough teams can renegotiate their leases, soon you’re talking real money, which is a pretty nice side benefit to reducing hundreds of players to unpaid intern status.