The Fresno Grizzlies at long last have turned into nothing more than a baseball team.
Their days as a political punching bag are over.
That’s my takeaway after watching the Fresno City Council on Monday agree to amend the Grizzlies’ lease at city-owned Chukchansi Park.
The vote was 7-0. The new terms go into effect only if Fresno Baseball Club, LLC, the Grizzlies’ owner, sells the team to a group of investors waiting in the wings.
This group includes Ray and Michael Baker of Denver and Jim Coufos of Southern California. All three have extensive and successful experience in the worlds of pro baseball and business. All three have received generous compliments from city officials.
The new owners’ rent would be $500,000 a year. The current owners’ rent is approximately $750,000.
A sale would trigger the immediate funding of an account to pay for stadium upkeep. The amount — $5.25 million, the money coming from City Hall, the current owner and the new owners.
Several years down the road, both City Hall and the new owners would begin contributing $300,000 annually to this maintenance account.
The new owners would agree to make every effort to market the stadium as a multi-purpose venue.
The new lease includes a non-relocation agreement. City Hall wants to make sure it has a tenant for at least the next 20 years.
Said Mayor Lee Brand: “This (lease) is really good for Fresno. We have done our due diligence on this. We’re always going to have a stadium that looks first class.”
Said Council Member Steve Brandau: “Today is not a day to regret the past or to rehash the past. I think that this is the best deal that the city of Fresno is going to get.”
Said Council Member Oliver Baines: “One of the reasons we have a high comfort level with this deal is the (quality of) the new ownership group. We are trying to clean up something that happened a long time ago.”
Said Council Member Garry Bredefeld: “I’m fully in support of (the new lease). I think it’s up to us to do our own due diligence. I’m satisfied with what Mayor Brand has shared with me. These guys are the real deal.”
Said Council Member Paul Caproglio: “It took a great team effort – we’ve become the cleanup council again.”
The reader may ask: What’s with all this talk about “political punching bag” and “regretting the past” and “cleanup council”?
City Manager Bruce Rudd answered that question midway through Monday’s hearing.
“Regardless of what happened in the past,” Rudd said, “the taxpayers have a $50 million investment in that stadium.”
An investment of $50 million and, Rudd might have added, two decades of often fiery debate. Bottom line – the stadium is here, so let’s make the best of it.
Council President Clint Olivier had his colleagues vote electronically. The screen quickly showed seven votes in favor of a historic change to the historic lease of what is turning into a historic Fresno building.
“It’s unanimous, 7-0,” Olivier said. “Thank you.”
There wasn’t a peep of joy or anguish from any of the several dozen audience members.
Ray Baker – Michael Baker – Jim Coufous: You’re coming to a town that has finally buried its stadium rancor.
Give us a great product.