The excellent River Avenue Blues has a report on the proposed sale of the publicly owned Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees to the parent franchise in the Bronx and Mandalay Entertainment, a deal that’s so complicated that it’s surprising the infield fly rule doesn’t come into play. As RAB sums it up:
- Lackawanna County, which owns the franchise, would sell it to the Yankees and Mandalay for $14.6 million. However, the county would then be required to put that entire amount into stadium renovations — including tearing down and replacing the entire upper deck — while the state of Pennsylvania would chip in another $20 million. (Another $5.4 million in renovations would be paid for by … it’s not exactly clear.)
- The Yankees would agree to a 30-year lease on their stadium, keeping all stadium revenues and paying $750,000 a year in rent. (They’d also pay $4 per each fan for attendance over 320,000 a year, which at current rates could amount to another few hundred thousand a year.) Without seeing the current lease, it’s hard to say how much of a sweetheart deal that is, but it won’t come anywhere near paying off $34.6 million in public expense.
- The Yankees can still pull their franchise out of Scranton, with Lackawanna County only having the right to buy back the team for “fair market value,” which is likely to be way more than $14.6 million.
- Luzerne County, which helped pay to purchase the team back in 1986, is suing Lackawanna for a share of the sale proceeds; Lackawanna is countersuing for its own baseball expenses. Half the sale money will be held in escrow until all this is worked out.
Given this whole mess, you really have to wonder whether Scranton wouldn’t have been better off keeping ownership of the franchise — there would be the threat the Yankees would move, yes, but minor-league franchises are easy to come by, and the Yanks have a built-in incentive to stay, given that Scranton is the nearest available AAA city to New York. (The whole reason they moved their top minor-league affiliate there from Columbus, Ohio in 2006.) RAB declares that “the deal is looking more and more like a losing proposition for the taxpayers of Pennsylvania,” which seems a fair assessment: In the best-case scenario, the county loses an asset and is barely made whole on the purchase price by added rent, while the state throws $20 million down a hole. The Yankees, meanwhile, end up with a new stadium for perhaps a million dollars a year in added rent, but get all the revenues from new suites and such — and can still walk if things don’t go well. Can’t anybody here play this stadium negotiation game?