The new proposed lease agreement between the city of El Paso and MountainStar Sports Group puts a tentative deal to bring Triple-A baseball into perspective. The deal would make El Paso the 12th city, county or state entity to own a baseball ballpark that would be in use for a Pacific Coast Leagueteam. However, it would be in the bottom half of those governmental entities when it came to cash earnings.
The proposed lease agreement calls for a $200,000 annual rent payment from the MountainStar Sports Group. ABC-7 obtained lease agreements, and information from seven of the 11 Pacific Coast League cities and counties that operate ballparks to compare that deal.
On average Pacific Coast League baseball team cities earn nearly $100,000 more annually on their lease agreements: $294,250.17. That includes a deal in Round Rock, Texas, where the rent is only 1 cent per year. Not including that deal, the average rental agreement with a Triple-A baseball city is more than $350,000.
While the numbers are shocking, some would argue the fact one city is willing to sell the rights annually to their stadium for 1 cent is a sign of how desperately cities want Triple-A baseball. El Paso Deputy City Manager BillStuder says the deal makes more sense than the numbers reflect.
"They all lose money from a strictly accounting thing, but some citizens can have their choice if they want to participate in any of those," said Studer.
Studer contends that while El Paso will earn less money in rent, the deal isn't meant to make money. In fact, he compares the deal to city pools, soccer fields or even the downtown theater, all projects subsidized by the city that don't turn a profit.
"It's a quality-of-life issue," said Studer.
According to the numbers, it would take 250 years to recoup the $50 million it will cost the city to build the ballpark at the current $200,000 proposed lease agreement. However, most of that money goes into a capital improvement fund that won't allow the city to spend the money elsewhere.
According to Studer, the city needed to keep the rent down in order to assure a fair ticket price for El Pasoans. He pointed to the average income in El Paso. His research shows that El Paso would be the lowest per capita income city in the Pacific Coast League. It's his belief, and many others in the city, that a low rent will keep ticket and concession prices affordable, although the proposed lease doesn't have a cap for either ticket or concession prices.
The city isn't giving up all hopes of recouping money on this deal, though. Parking garages will allow the city to make money. It will also be one of four cities, of the seven that made information available, in the Pacific Coast League that charges a ticket tax. El Paso can earn up to $75,000 each year by collecting a 10 cent ticket surcharge. They are capped at $75,000 according to the proposed lease.