Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Sea Dogs: A Better Deal

The Sea Dogs are asking the City of Portland for a $1.7 million bond to build a new club house. The Sea Dogs have proposed to exchange the financing of the bond financing ($145,000 per year) for Hadlock Field maintenance ($147 million per year), basically a wash. Instead of continuing our subsidy of the Sea Dogs, a better deal would be to ask the team to raise the cost of tickets by one dollar ($1). Since 1994 the average yearly attendance has been around 400,000 people. The extra $400,000 would not only cover the cost of the bond financing ($145,000 per year) but would also clear the City of its $100,000 subsidy and deliver an extra $155,000 to the Sea Dogs for investments in Hadlock Field.

When the Sea Dogs first came to Portland in 1994 it was not clear that a Minor League team would be successful so the City gave incentives and has been subsidizing the team for $100,000 to $200,000 per year.

In the proposal by the Sea Dogs, the bond revenue is traded for field maintenance and results in a wash as far as yearly expenditures are concerned.

The issue is that the $1.7 million bond for the clubhouse will affect our ability to bond in the future. As a City we can only handle a limited amount of bonding obligations, therefore we should prioritize our bonding needs.

In the upcoming year we will be considering:

1. An extra $1 million bond for the Library to move the Public Marking.

2. We will also need to bond for the renovation or rebuilding of Nathan Clifford Elementary School.

3. Not to mention the ongoing issue of the CSO (Combined Sewer Overflow) separation. We are far behind or neighboring cities in seperating the CSO's. The Patriot's Day nor' easter maxed out our sewer treatment plant, forcing enough raw sewerage and run off into the bay to turn it brown.

4. Also, one strategy to develop the Maine State Pier involves bonding $18 million to fix the pier and then to lease the pier to cover the bond financing and allowing the City to collect the full amount of taxes.

Now that the Sea Dogs are a proven minor league baseball team in Portland, we need to consider eliminating our subsidies. A better deal would be to ask the Sea Dogs to increase ticket prices by one dollar in exchange for the adding a $1.7 million bond the City's debt. The extra ticket revenue will clear the City of Portland from all subsidies and liabilities from the team and pass on the maintenance costs of Hadlock Field. Through a better deal we will have $100,000 of flexibility in our City budget to address our needs.

Councilor David A. Marshall

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