Looks like a sale of the Fresno Grizzlies is just around the corner and the new ownership group is coming into focus.
The Fresno City Council will hold a special meeting on Monday afternoon to consider an amended lease at city-owned Chukchansi Park.
There are a lot of moving pieces to this story, but it’s clear that a new lease is a key step in long-running efforts by Grizzlies’ owner Fresno Baseball Club LLC to sell the team.
The new lease would set the Grizzlies’ annual rent at $500,000 a year.
The proposed lease states:
· “Tenant is currently attempting to sell the Grizzlies to Fresno Sports and Events, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company (‘Buyer’), which will be owned and controlled by JC Sports and Entertainment, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company and Fresno Home Field, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company (together, the ‘Owners’).
· “City believes that the sale of the Grizzlies to Buyer is in the best interests of City and, accordingly, City is willing to accommodate Tenant’s requests by amending the Agreement as provided herein to protect its investment in the Stadium and to preserve Minor League Baseball in Fresno.”
City Hall and private sector officials close to the negotiations confirmed to me that the potential buyer’s top investors include Ray and Michael Baker (father and son) from Denver and Jim Coufos from Southern California.
Ray Baker is chairman of the board of the Denver Metropolitan Major League Baseball Stadium District. The district owns Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, on behalf of taxpayers.
The council and the Administration of Mayor Lee Brand have met repeatedly in closed session this spring to review issues connected to the Grizzlies’ sale. Council Member Steve Brandau told me on Sunday that he will ask the Administration on Monday to go over these details one more time in closed session.
I’ve chatted off the record with several council members, Administration officials and Grizzlies President Chris Cummings. I expect the proposed new lease to get the council’s A-OK.
The Grizzlies’ current rent is based on a formula involving various revenue streams. The team ends up paying about $750,000 a year.
According to the staff report, the new owners would pay $300,000 into a Capital Reserve Account in 2019. This payment would be increased 2% annually. The city would match the team’s payment. The result: City Hall has a steady source of money to repair/maintain the stadium far into the future.
The prudent and secure funding of maintenance of city-owned assets is something dear to the hearts of Brand and City Manager Bruce Rudd.
City officials say the new lease is Step 1 in a three-step process that would bring new owners to town. Step 2 is completing a sale between Fresno Baseball Club and the Baker-Baker-Coufos group. City officials tell me this could happen in about 30 days. Step 3 is getting Pacific Coast League approval of the sale. This most likely is a formality.
Chukchansi Park opened on May 1, 2002. The nearly $50 million stadium was built with proceeds from 30-year bonds.
When it comes to paying off the stadium’s mortgage, Fresno is over the hump.