Skip to comments.Lawsuit could sink Rendell's stadium plan
Posted on 09/01/2010 7:38:17 PM PDT by Born Conservative
A curve ball thrown by Luzerne County on Monday could jeopardize a baseball stadium renovation plan put forward by Gov. Ed Rendell last month.
Luzerne County commissioners filed a lawsuit against Lackawanna County and the Lackawanna County Multi-Purpose Stadium Authority to enforce their belief that Luzerne is entitled to half of the "gross proceeds" of any sale of the triple-A baseball franchise.
While Lackawanna County does not comment on litigation, it has previously indicated an October 1986 agreement entitles Luzerne County to "net proceeds," or rather, the profits after Lackawanna County deducts almost $14 million it has put into the franchise. The 1986 agreement, in which both counties put up $1 million each to purchase the franchise, doesn't define "proceeds" as either gross or net.
SWB Yankees, a company co-owned by Mandalay Baseball Properties and the New York Yankees, was given the right to purchase the triple-A franchise in a 2007 agreement signed by former Lackawanna County commissioner Robert C. Cordaro that brought the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees to PNC Field.
Rendell said last month he was willing to commit $20 million to a major renovation of PNC Field - but added he believed the Lackawanna County Multi-Purpose Stadium Authority should agree to the sale of the franchise and use the proceeds to match state funding.
However, as a result of the legal dispute over the sale proceeds, potentially half of $13 million that SWB Yankees would have to pay for the franchise if it exercised a purchase option in the next month could go to Luzerne County - or at least be held back until the dispute is settled.
There has been resistance from some community leaders, who say while the sale might help remake the stadium, there is little to no guarantee the team won't leave after 2014.
Rendell is still willing to commit the $20 million, said press secretary Gary Tuma, but a local match commitment was key to it.
"If the local match is truly at risk because of the Luzerne County position, then that would be an impediment to the release of the money," Tuma said. "Something would have to be worked out up there."
Asked if the governor's plan was taken into consideration before the lawsuit was filed, Luzerne County Commissioner Chairwoman Maryanne Petrilla said "absolutely." But she said her county has an interest only in the franchise - not the stadium. She isn't sure why Luzerne County taxpayers should pay for part of the stadium rehabilitation.
"If Gov. Rendell wants to give $20 million and Lackawanna County can't find the resources to match that grant, I don't see what that has to do with Luzerne County," she said, pointing out she doubted Lackawanna County would offer $6.5 million toward renovating Mohegan Sun Arena, home of the local ice hockey franchise.
"Obviously we want to keep baseball in our region," Petrilla said. "I realize that takes teamwork, but at the same time I have an obligation to the taxpayers of Luzerne County to protect their proprietary interest."
How "proceeds" is defined in the 1986 agreement will likely come down to testimony on how the agreement was drawn up, said attorney Michael Reed, a public contracting expert from Harrisburg.
The court must first see if it can determine the meaning of proceeds from the agreement, he said. If it can't, and if other avenues are exhausted, Reed said the court will "look to things like letters back and forth, testimony from either parties of what the negotiations were."
"In this case, it is fairly likely it will come down to that," Reed said.
The draftee of the agreement was the former solicitor to the stadium authority, John McGee. He wrote in a memo earlier this month to the stadium authority - and still believes is accurate - that Luzerne County's interpretation of the intent of the agreement was accurate.
The current stadium authority solicitor, Frank Tunis, said he had not yet had the opportunity to review the lawsuit, but indicated there would likely be a special meeting soon to address the issue. He did, however, say Luzerne County's lawsuit - seeking an answer on determining if it is owed half the proceeds of the sale - appears to be premature.
"The franchise has not been sold," Tunis said.
The stadium authority has not made a decision on whether it will challenge the sale of the franchise, though Tunis said Luzerne County's suit doesn't help.
"Any lawsuit is going to complicate things we're trying to do on our end, no matter what the stadium authority decides," he said. "But Luzerne County has been talking about this for some time, so it doesn't come as much of a surprise."
If Lackawanna County Court determines the intent of the agreement was "net proceeds," then Luzerne County could potentially see no money from the sale. Lackawanna County Chief Financial Officer Tom Durkin said the county has subsidized operating expenses and improvements to keep the franchise local to the tune of $13,850,454 just in the last seven years.
Lackawanna is why I divorced my first wife...
Glad to see the States still have money to throw away at nonsense.
Rendellidiot....nuff’ said. =.=
Wherever you turn in this state this idiot Rendell is throwing money we don’t have around for stupid reasons. He gave a press conference the other week to raise the gas tax “to keep up with inflation” and when asked what the current tax was by a reporter, Fast Eddie had to ask his assistant what it was. Corbett is looking better by the day.
And here I thought I got my fair share of experience watching idiots dump truckloads of money into stadiums in high school and college.
Here in PA our Democrat governor and Republican-RINO state senate have been teaming up for years to pump taxpayer dollars into sports stadiums.
They are both despicable.
Whatever happened to the Rendell sex/hooker scandal? [/sarc]
A stadium is clearly way more important than what $20 million could do to fix roads and bridges in Northeast PA, but roads and bridges are seen as unimportant expenses that can be endlessly pushed off. They just cancelled the repaving of I-84 westbound in Pike County. It’s already a mess. I can imagine what it will look like after another winter. Oh, well, we won’t have to worry about people speeding. Eventually we can go back to using ox carts.
I 84 is in pretty rough shape up there.
But don’t worry; if Fast Eddie can’t spend the $20 million on the stadium, he’ll use it for roads in Philly.
My favorite section of Philly street is 3rd St between Chestnut and Spring Garden. A mile or so of never fully repaired sewer connections and water department fix ups. I've been on better woodland dirt tracks.
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