City councilor Aron Carleson said she was “very honored that Yakima has chosen us,” and Hillsboro mayor Jerry Willey and councilor Nenice Andrews slipped on baseball caps to celebrate the occasion.
Hillsboro became a logical new destination, with a friendly council and leadership that tried to convince the Portland Beavers to stay in the region. Willey said that effort proved too expensive but the notion lingered. “Baseball has been on the back of our brains for a while now,” he said.
The offer sheet is the foundation of what will be a 20-year licensing agreement for the team to move to Hillsboro.
Parks and recreation director Steve Greagor told the council time is of the essence. Many details remain undetermined, such as how the concession revenue will be shared during city-operated events, but the basics are set.
Short Season LLC has until June 29 to agree to the 20-year deal. The city would own and be responsible for financing the new stadium.
The team is responsible for annual payments of $150,000 to the city to rent the facility, increasing three percent annually. The team retains all revenue from ticket sales, aside from a $1 surcharge that goes to the city. All parking revenue goes to the city, with an estimated charge of $5 per vehicle.
Hillsboro would also take in 70 percent of any additional revenue generated from naming rights for the facility. Construction could begin by October with the goal being a new stadium and a newly-named team taking the artificial field by June 2013.
The total pricetag is not to exceed $15.2 million, which the city will finance with the issuance of 20-year bonds. Even those details are murky as city officials weigh whether they can close the sale of a city-owned property to decrease the total debt obligations over the life span.
In nearly an hour of presentation and questioning about the offer sheet, finance department director Suzanne Linneen acknowledged that the city could have to dip into the general fund as a “last resort” to cover anticipated revenue shortfalls.
Every estimate included in public documents projects revenue for the city generated by parking, the ticket surcharge and the $150,000 annual rent will cover the roughly $284,000 in annual operating expenses for the facility.
But Linneen acknowledged that annual payments on the debt, estimated at $1.1 million under the latest projections, leaves shortfalls ranging from a low range of $180,000 to the high range of $880,000 annually. Those variances depend on attendance, parking revenue and other factors.
The city has high hopes for attendance. The least ambitious attendance projections, 100,000 fans, would necessitate 58 percent capacity at every home game. The 4,500 seat stadium would host 38 home games between mid-June and Labor Day plus the possibility of all-star games or exhibition games.
Willey said he’s not concerned about any gap between revenue and the annual payments on the bond debt. He said that gap is outstripped by the economic benefit of the facility on the region, which he cited as $7.5 million, according to city analysis.
“We’re pretty positive that it’s going to be beneficial beyond the dollars that you see running through the city,” Willey said.
The deal is still contingent on approval from several different parties, but all hurdles are expected to be passed. The Northwest League must approve relocation of the Yakima squad to Hillsboro and Hoffman and SRG Parnership must gain approval from minor league baseball on their design plans prior to construction.
The city held one public hearing on the baseball deal in mid-May, but Willey said he’s heard universally good things when he’s approached in the community calling it the number one issue.
During public testimony Tuesday, Monte Akers was the lone public speaker denouncing the project. He urged city leaders to spend more money to help students on free or reduced lunch. Willey agreed that’s an important issue, but added the baseball stadium was a win-win situation.
The agreement ends a two-year saga. After the Triple-A Portland Beavers were sold by owner Merritt Paulson in October 2010, the Portland metro area became the largest without a baseball team at any level.
By 2014 it’s possible the region will have two Single-A clubs.
Kenny Asher, director of community development and public works for the city of Milwaukie, said the city is pushing ahead.
While that project is still in the development stages, there are nitty-gritty details to be ironed out. Minor lague baseball has a rule that forces teams to pay rivals if they encroach into their geographic area.