Friday, April 05, 2013

You gotta buy the ballpark too, Cardinals.

Michael Sheffield reports at MBJ that before the St. Louis Cardinals will purchase their Triple-A affiliate, your own Memphis Redbirds, they insist that the City purchase AutoZone Park, which was built in the late 90s with only six million invested by the City and Shelby County, the rest put up by then owners Blues City Baseball (spearheaded by Dean and Kristi Jernigan and Willard Sparks) as a non-profit venture, the first (and apparently LAST) of its kind in baseball.

Well, as you know, BCB defaulted on their bonds, sold the team and bondholders now own the ballpark.   The Cardinals, who clearly used AZP as a model for their own new ballpark on the river in St. Louis, want to own their AAA team (a growing trend in MLB, see the Gwinnett Braves) but don't want to cough up the $65 Million for the park.

The Cardinals, who, despite being in one of the smallest media markets in MLB, have the widest fanbase in the sport, aren't hurting for money, no matter what they would make you think.  Their primary owner, William DeWitt, is the son of an owner of multiple teams like the old St. Louis Browns and the Cincinnati Reds, and was a chief fundraiser for George W. Bush.  In short: THE CARDINALS CAN AFFORD THE DAMN BALLPARK.

It is in their interest to see that their AAA affiliate is stable and close-by, also a MLB trend (see Lehigh Valley IronPigs for the Phils and the Round Rock, TX affiliate of the Rangers).  The city cannot afford to own the park, even though the Cardinals have apparently agreed to maintain the park, which is also in their interests.

We have come to the end of the times where cities and municipalities can allow businesses to force them to subsidize their expenses.  Say no, City Council, call their bluff.  They're not going anywhere.

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