The State of Alabama is most fortunate to have four minor league baseball teams. Each is a Double A team affiliated with a major league team. Considering there are only 30 such teams in the United States, our state has been most fortunate. These teams are unique assets and very valuable in many ways to Alabama. Unfortunately, the teams now face serious economic issues because of some apparently unintended consequences of the so-called ethics legislation that was passed at the tail-end of the Riley years. I don’t think when they passed the new law that legislators intended to hurt the minor league baseball teams in our state. But the reality is they have done exactly that and the damage done could have very serious consequences.
Team owners in Alabama are now facing serious issues caused by the new law. The provisions doing the damage are in conflict with what was believed to be the intent of the legislators. A sporting ticket is defined in the Act as a “thing of value.” I am told by informed sources that there have been sharp declines in team revenues because of the new law. The companies leasing the suites simply don’t want to run the risk of being prosecuted over the cost of a ticket to a baseball game. I understand the value of a suite ticket is about $15. This revenue loss directly impacts the communities where the teams are located. Sponsorship revenue, which is key to maintaining low ticket prices, has been put in serious jeopardy.
Minor league baseball is unique in that each of the teams in Alabama is part of public-private economic efforts. Simply put, these facilities were built by municipalities with a private tenant revenue arrangement relating to the team’s success and the ability of the municipality to offer other events at these multi-purpose facilities. These facilities not only attract economic development, but improve quality of life in the areas served by the teams. No other facilities, other than minor league baseball stadiums in Alabama, serve a similar purpose.
The ethics law should be amended to save minor league baseball in Alabama. A simple change in a law that, in its current state, is extremely vague and probably unconstitutional, would solve the problem. Failure to do this will result in an economic blow to our state. The average payroll of a Double A team is $1,800,000 for full-time and game-day staff throughout the calendar year. Minor league players are paid by Major League Baseball. In addition, an estimated $2,000,000 is spent by the team with local vendors.
To put things in perspective, an estimated 2,000 hotel room nights are booked in Alabama each year in conjunction with baseball games and special stadium events. In addition, when our state’s teams host All-Star Games or exhibition games a significant economic impact occurs. The regular season home games result in a tremendous increase in downtown traffic and spending for local businesses, especially hotels and restaurants. The teams are responsible for revenue sharing payments in accordance with the leases. In addition to the rent, sales and business taxes contribute substantial amounts each year. According to the Montgomery Business Journal, July 2010, The Montgomery Biscuits have already paid $4 million in revenue sharing rent since 2004. The City of Montgomery now owes $5 million of a Series B bond issue which is paid by the team’s shared revenue. The City depends on the Biscuits remaining in Montgomery and doing well financially.
If you believe minor league baseball is important to our state and you want to help save it, contact your Senator and House members and ask them to join the team and vote to amend the ethics law. I believe it’s the right thing to do.
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