It is either the end of an era for local minor league baseball in our area or the beginning of a whole new one.
On Thursday Lackawanna County officials ended their more than 20-year ownership of the Triple-A franchise that has been playing in the area since 1989.
It’s a deal that’s been in the works for several years, and it remains controversial even after the official papers were signed.
When former county commissioner Bob Cordaro was negotiating to bring the Yankees Triple-A team to the area in 2006 one high-ranking political leader said “If Bobby Cordaro gets the Yankees here, he’ll never lose another election.”
The Yankees came to the area in 2007, but Cordaro lost his re-election that same year, and the Yankees, after a very successful first season in the area, have seen attendance drop alarmingly since then.
So the question is, will this new deal change that?
The essentials of the deal are these: the Triple-A Yankees now belong to the New York Yankees and their minor league management group, Mandalay.
The $14.6 million from the sale will go toward the $40 million renovation of PNC Field, and the team agreed to stay in Lackawanna County for at least the next 30 years.
The county commissioners think they cut the best deal they could, but not everyone agrees.
Chris Munley is a member of the stadium authority, which approved the sale.
“They’re going to get a brand new palace, and the hope against all hope that they’re actually going to show up and do something. I don’t have faith in them, I have faith in the Yankees, they are a great organization, but I don’t have any faith in Mandalay,” said Munley.
For the first 19 years of international league baseball in the area the old Red Barons drew respectable crowds to what was then Lackawanna County Stadium.
That seemed to change about a year after the Yankees brought their Triple-A franchise to town.
By 2011 attendance at the home opener at PNC Field was almost embarrassingly sparse.
“The price of the tickets, the price of the food, I think the Red Barons drew better than the Yankees did. I think it was a bad deal all around, and the taxpayers are going to get hosed on the whole deal,” said Charlie Newcomb of Scranton.
Preliminary work on PNC Field is already underway.
When it’s complete the commissioners said it will no longer have an upper deck and will feature a wide, fan-friendly concourse that will circle the entire field.
Of course there is still the issue of Luzerne County seeking what it claims is its share of the proceeds from the sale.
Lackawanna County Commissioner Corey O’Brien said leaders will talk with their counterparts in Luzerne County to try to iron out that dispute before the courts get involved.
To read to complete purchase agreement, click here.