We see it at the top level of sports all the time.
A new stadium is constructed. A number of years pass. And the owners of the team that plays in the stadium says renovations are needed. The renovations come with a high price tag. And the owner believes it should be covered with taxpayer money. If not, the owner threatens to move the team.
Some of the latest cases of this involve NFL teams Buffalo and Miami.
Up north, Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo is undergoing $130 million in renovations, with nearly three-quarters of the cost being covered by the state and county, the latter of which owns the stadium. Down south, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross initially asked the state to pay for $400 million in renovations to Sun Life Stadium, which Ross owns. But the state turned down the request and Ross ultimately decided to pay for everything himself.
It's one of the craziest farces among the nation's big-three sports: the NFL, Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association. Rich team owners, who are some of the wealthiest people in the world, ask for public tax dollars to pay for renovations they could easily cover themselves, only to have their greed get in the way.
This all brings me back to York County and the independent York Revolution ballclub and Santander (formerly Sovereign Bank) Stadium, where individual tickets to a Revs' game run from $8 to $14 and players are paid a maximum of a few thousand bucks a month for a reason.
Since the Revs are a privately held company, no one knows how much money is earned every season by the three team owners: Bill Shipley, Eric Menzer and Opening Day Partners. It's certainly enough to make it viable to be a part owner. But it's nowhere near the astronomical sum of say, the owner of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks Paul Allen, who Forbes recently revealed as the richest NFL owner with a whopping net worth $15 billion.
As a result, I could certainly understand if the Revs were ever to one day ask for taxpayer dollars to pay for renovations to Santander Stadium, which first opened in 2007. That's not going to happen anytime soon, though. Why? Because the stadium is owned by the York County Industrial Development Authority, which has a 20-year lease on the stadium with the Revs that runs through 2028. During the life of the lease the team is obligated to pay the authority more than $250,000 a year and pay for all routine stadium maintenance and repair, among other responsibilities.
Still, the franchise hasn't just done the bare minimum to live up to the contract. Menzer, who is also the Revs' president and general manager, said recently the team annually invests about $50,000 in stadium maintenance and repair. That doesn't include the additional costs of the last couple years of padding the cement outfield walls. An outfielder was seriously injured during a game in 2011 when chasing down a fly ball and colliding with the cement wall. That also doesn't include replacing the sliding windows in the press box. They became so inoperable that team employees would need crow bars to open and close them. Both of those projects came in at around $25,000.
Plus, the Revs will unveil the new Dietz & Bluett Insurance Diamond Deck when the 2014 season opens at home April 24. It's the first of a handful of exciting projects in the pipeline in the coming years, too, Menzer said.
On top of all this, the Revs have invested in the local community. Since 2010, the organization either donated or helped raise more than $1 million for non-profit groups. Plus, all money collected from parking in the grass lot outside the stadium goes to the York City School District, which has averaged around $40,000 a year, according to promotions and communications manager Paul Braverman. The Revs also saved the annual York City Halloween Parade from going extinct two years ago by taking over for the York YWCA, which admitted in 2012 it could no longer cover the parade's cost (about $30,000 according to previously published reports) and the time required to plan it.
By comparison, the Seattle Seahawks are one of the most stingy teams when it comes to charitable donations. In 2012, the Seahawks Charitable Foundation gave away just $170,000, (Owner Allen has a $300 million personal foundation), according to sportsbiz411.com. It is one of the lowest totals of NFL teams with charitable foundations. It's laughable when considering the Revolution oversaw $216,661 in charitable fund-raising in 2013. And the Revs don't have the stream of tens of millions of dollars flowing in from TV and apparel contracts like NFL clubs do.
So it's nice to see the Revolution owners aren't corrupted by greed but instead are overwhelmed by the need to help others, and going above and beyond its duties as a minor league baseball franchise.
— Reach John Walk at email@example.com.