Minor league teams are “on the brink of financial collapse,” and bipartisan lawmakers are stepping up to the plate

The new Rocket City Trash Panda was supposed to be last year’s breakout team for minor league baseball.Then Pandemic Hit and forced to cancel all games. For Trash Panda, that meant leaving the new $ 50 million stadium empty.

“We had a hard time launching a whole new baseball team in 2020,” said Lindsey Knapp, vice president of marketing, promotion and entertainment for the team. The organization has lost millions of dollars, she said — as much as $ 17 million.

“We either closed and closed the doors and fired people, or came up with other creative ways to take people to the stadium here,” Knup said.

The name of the team was the nickname of the raccoon that gained popularity in the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and selling the product was one winning strategy. The “sprocket” mascot and the raccoon logo in a rocket-shaped trash can became a hot topic, with sales of $ 2.5 million for the 2021 season.

Los Angeles Angels affiliate Trash Pandas has also used the stadium to host outdoor summer camps, sociable movie nights, and turn parking into Christmas light shows.

These moves generated enough money to keep the lights on, and 30 full-time employees on the team were working.

The Chattanooga lookout, about 120 miles away, wasn’t very lucky.

They are one of the oldest teams in the minor league, and since about 1885 there is a dilapidated stadium with an outdated design. Lookout, an affiliate of Cincinnati Reds, survived the Spanish flu, the Great Depression, and two World Wars, but COVID-19 has almost finished doing so. Revenues in 2020 fell by nearly 93%.

Unlike Major League Baseball, which has a profitable television contract, almost all of the minor league team’s revenue comes from within the stadium, including ticket sales, concessions, in-stadium advertising, and merchandise sales.

Lookout managing owner Jason Flyer said his team is just trying to get past the pandemic.

“I think we were going to dig a big hole in 2020 and backfill it in 2009, but the truth is still a little late this year,” Flyer said.

When the match finally resumed this summer, fans needed masks and many teams had limited capacity. According to the team owner, overall league revenue is expected to decline by 65% ​​from 2019.

“They are on the verge of collapse,” said Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal. “If we really want to save and save the stadium and the team, we have to come to help them and stay in the game, or we will lose an essential part of the American sports dream. Become.”

Blumenthal is working with Tennessee Senator Marcia Blackburn to join in for relief. Democrats and Republicans are usually politically opposite, but when it comes to baseball, they find something in common. Both have memories of taking the children to a minor league match.

“We can’t go back and regain the 2020 season,” Blackburn said in a rare joint interview, adding that the team is an important part of many American cities. “They are the driving force for work and tourism … this is a very small part of your local economic system in these communities.”

Senator, along with Virginia Senator John Warner and Democrat Tim Kaine, is a minor league team in need of $ 550 million in an unused COVID-19 relief fund from the Small and Medium Business Administration. Co-sponsor the laws used for. Sports teams have been locked out of previous emergency grant programs aimed at supporting live event venues such as theaters and concert halls.

“See what happened at restaurants and live entertainment venues. Second, this component is a very small business component. It’s a big part of what’s happening in the community.” Blackburn said.

To be eligible for the Minor League Baseball Relief Act, the team must be present and active prior to the pandemic and cannot be owned by the Major League Baseball team. The grant limit is $ 10 million and is based on 2019 earnings. If the recession continues, the bill allows a second grant.

California House of Representatives Doris Matsui (Democrat) and West Virginia House of Representatives David McKinley (Republican) have submitted ancillary bills to the House of Representatives. Democrat Susan Wild in Pennsylvania, Peter Welch in Vermont, James McGovern in Massachusetts, and Elissa Slotkin in Michigan also support the move.

Most of the 120 minor league teams have independent owners and operate as small businesses. According to the team owners, they are in 37 states and have more than 40 million fans annually. It also attracts people to nearby restaurants and other businesses and pays about $ 50 million in local taxes annually. The team helped raise an additional $ 50 million annually for local charities, with approximately 35,000 full-time employees prior to the pandemic.

“Many people will not have a job,” said Dan Mamat, a ticket scanner at Lookout. “I think it’s important for the community to hire people in the community, and that’s what Lookouts does.”

For Tim Kelly, the newly elected mayor of Chattanooga, seeing his community without an observatory is “frankly unthinkable.”

Kelly grew up going to the game, and a few years later he took his child to see the local team play.

“When most people think of sports, they’re thinking of a millionaire-owned Major League Baseball team, and this isn’t the case,” he said standing near the home plate of AT & T Field in Chattanooga. “The survival and prosperity of minor league sports is very important for a town like us.”

With Uncertainty surrounding delta variants, Lookouts owners are seeking relief from Washington.

“Without this support, it would take eight to ten years to get the balance sheet back to 2019,” Flyer said.

Minor league teams are “on the brink of financial collapse,” and bipartisan lawmakers are stepping up to the plate

Source link Minor league teams are “on the brink of financial collapse,” and bipartisan lawmakers are stepping up to the plate

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