In a press release today, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos announced that during in its first three years of operation the the Minor League affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds has paid the city of Pensacola’s Community Maritime Park Associates over $2 million in use fees and other fees.
Those dollars are in addition to the $3 million the team contributed towards the stadium construction.
According to the press release, “The Blue Wahoos pay one of the highest — if not the highest — use fees per seat in the minors. In 2014, the Pensacola ball club contributed $722,905 to the CMPA to play baseball and host community events at the ballpark in the Vince Whibbs Sr. Community Maritime Park.”
The fees generated by the team for the CMPA this year were the highest in the Southern League for a public stadium. The Birmingham Barons came close at an estimated $715,000 – for a $64-million, 8,500-seat facility with 24 private suites. The other teams’ fees ranged from $10,000 to $350,000.
“We are grateful for the fans’ support. We are thankful to the Wahoos’ staff that make the team’s game experience the best in minor league baseball,” said Quint Studer, the team’s owner.
Last year, Mayor Ashton Hayward and his then-City Adminstrator Colleen Castille openly complained in “Mornings with the Mayor” sessions about the use agreement with the team, saying that they wanted to renegotiate it. The current contract was signed in 2011 by Mayor Hayward after it was approved by both the CMPA board and Pensacola City Council.
This past summer the CMPA Board tried to get the Studers to meet and discuss the contract, claiming the team was not paying enough to cover the CMPA’s expenses. The team’s attorney Scott Remington attended several board meetings and submitted a report on how the board and city may not be properly accounting for expenses and missing out on several revenue opportunities.
Studer said that he agreed in 2011 to a high use fee because the city had all the leverage in the negotiations. He had bought the Carolina Mudcats and needed a place to play.
“The city did a great job negotiating the use fee,” Studer said. “We asked for the three-year clause to re-look at the use agreement. We knew the use agreement was very high compared to others.”
Rather than increase fees, as the CMPA board has wanted to do, Studer thought the three-year review would be to lower fees. “We agreed to help the CMPA these first years with the understanding by now that the CMPA would have other revenue creating projects,” he said. “We were hoping then that the use agreement could be brought into line with what other teams generate and pay.”