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Town, PBI continue negotiations

The Town of Pulaski continues to negotiate with Pulaski Baseball Inc. (PBI) on a lease contract for Calfee Park next summer, but one town council member says he would like to see the town be able to make some money off the games.
“It seems our carrot up there isn’t financial. That’s okay. It’s more for exposure,” Councilman Joel Burchett Jr. said. “But I’m wondering just how much money we lose from having baseball up there?”
Town Manager John Hawley said the biggest advantages minor league baseball offers to the town are exposure, bringing people into the town who would not otherwise come here, and improving the quality of life for area citizens.
“We’re going to have the maintenance expense up there regardless if baseball is there,” Hawley added.
“If we draw a thousand people per night into the town, they’re going to be spending money,” Mayor Jeff Worrell said.
Burchett initially asked if the council’s discussion about the PBI contract could be held in closed session under a state code allowing the awarding of public contracts to be an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
“I think it is best to discuss our negotiating position in closed session, so the town doesn’t tip its hand,” Burchett said.
However, Town Attorney David Warburton said it is his opinion the contract does not fall under the exemption to the FOIA because that section pertains to contracts submitted for public bid.
The PBI contract is not open to public bid.
Burchett said he is concerned about the amount of money the town will have to spend to keep Calfee up to standards for minor league baseball, such as the town’s replacement of a dugout this past summer.
He asked for an estimate of the amount it will cost the town in maintenance.
Worrell said replacing the dugout was the town’s decision, not a request by PBI or the Seattle Mariners. He noted that there was money in the “revenue stream” to replace it, so the town chose to move forward.
Burchett asked if a batting tunnel the town is supposed to construct for training on inclement days is a “recommendation” or requirement.
Hawley said it is his understanding the tunnel was something Seattle requested in order to enter into a two-year contract with PBI. He estimated the tunnel will cost $30,000.
Burchett said he also would like to see some areas opened for outside vendors to set up at the games, selling items other than what is carried at PBI’s concession stand. He said the town could lease these vendor spaces to “cover some of the red ink we have up there.”
Dave Hart, the town parks director, said he thinks other vendors would be excluded under PBI’s proposed contract with the town.
The town gets one dollar of each paid entry fee into games, but it does not get a percentage of food sales at the games.
Councilman Morgan Welker said he thinks the town should ask Seattle to pay for the batting tunnel and then agree to pay them back a percentage of the total cost for each year they continue to have a team in the town.
Welker said that would encourage the team to stay.
Worrell said the town has asked the team and PBI to help pay for the tunnel during contract negotiations. He agreed to take Burchett’s concerns into negotiations, but he did not guarantee any positive response.
Burchett said he would like to see the food selection at the games expanded, and allowing the town to lease space to vendors would accomplish that.
He also said he would like to see the box seats made available to everyone each year. He explained that when he asked for box seats this past summer, he was told the box seat holders from the previous year are given the option of first refusal.
Burchett said letting the same people hold on to their box seats each year is unfair to the rest of the fans. He said there ought to at least be a lottery system to decide who gets the limited box seats available.
Worrell, who acknowledged being the part-owner of a box seat this past summer, said all sports have season ticket holders. “If we alienate them, they’ll never come back,” he noted.
Burchett said it is his understanding the waiting list for box seats is longer than the number of box seats available.
Hawley said it is PBI’s position that it has done a good job of keeping baseball in Pulaski at a reasonable ticket price. He noted that there will not be any increase in ticket prices in 2009.
“They’re going to try to increase revenue by trying to increase attendance,” he said.
“They don’t want to monkey with anything that’s not broken,” Hawley said, adding that some of the box seat ticket holders have had the box seats for nine years.
Welker said his two main concerns are trying to set up a payment plan on the batting tunnel and seeing if some picnic areas could be set up to give families a place to congregate during the game.
Worrell said PBI already has shown an interest in establishing some picnic areas in the park.
It was pointed out that Burchett’s and Welker’s concerns can be presented to PBI.
However, if PBI doesn’t agree to the proposals and if the Town Council insists they be part of the contract, “baseball will go away again,” Hawley said.

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Town, PBI continue negotiations

The Town of Pulaski continues to negotiate with Pulaski Baseball Inc. (PBI) on a lease contract for Calfee Park next summer, but one town council member says he would like to see the town be able to make some money off the games.
“It seems our carrot up there isn’t financial. That’s okay. It’s more for exposure,” Councilman Joel Burchett Jr. said. “But I’m wondering just how much money we lose from having baseball up there?”
Town Manager John Hawley said the biggest advantages minor league baseball offers to the town are exposure, bringing people into the town who would not otherwise come here, and improving the quality of life for area citizens.
“We’re going to have the maintenance expense up there regardless if baseball is there,” Hawley added.
“If we draw a thousand people per night into the town, they’re going to be spending money,” Mayor Jeff Worrell said.
Burchett initially asked if the council’s discussion about the PBI contract could be held in closed session under a state code allowing the awarding of public contracts to be an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
“I think it is best to discuss our negotiating position in closed session, so the town doesn’t tip its hand,” Burchett said.
However, Town Attorney David Warburton said it is his opinion the contract does not fall under the exemption to the FOIA because that section pertains to contracts submitted for public bid.
The PBI contract is not open to public bid.
Burchett said he is concerned about the amount of money the town will have to spend to keep Calfee up to standards for minor league baseball, such as the town’s replacement of a dugout this past summer.
He asked for an estimate of the amount it will cost the town in maintenance.
Worrell said replacing the dugout was the town’s decision, not a request by PBI or the Seattle Mariners. He noted that there was money in the “revenue stream” to replace it, so the town chose to move forward.
Burchett asked if a batting tunnel the town is supposed to construct for training on inclement days is a “recommendation” or requirement.
Hawley said it is his understanding the tunnel was something Seattle requested in order to enter into a two-year contract with PBI. He estimated the tunnel will cost $30,000.
Burchett said he also would like to see some areas opened for outside vendors to set up at the games, selling items other than what is carried at PBI’s concession stand. He said the town could lease these vendor spaces to “cover some of the red ink we have up there.”
Dave Hart, the town parks director, said he thinks other vendors would be excluded under PBI’s proposed contract with the town.
The town gets one dollar of each paid entry fee into games, but it does not get a percentage of food sales at the games.
Councilman Morgan Welker said he thinks the town should ask Seattle to pay for the batting tunnel and then agree to pay them back a percentage of the total cost for each year they continue to have a team in the town.
Welker said that would encourage the team to stay.
Worrell said the town has asked the team and PBI to help pay for the tunnel during contract negotiations. He agreed to take Burchett’s concerns into negotiations, but he did not guarantee any positive response.
Burchett said he would like to see the food selection at the games expanded, and allowing the town to lease space to vendors would accomplish that.
He also said he would like to see the box seats made available to everyone each year. He explained that when he asked for box seats this past summer, he was told the box seat holders from the previous year are given the option of first refusal.
Burchett said letting the same people hold on to their box seats each year is unfair to the rest of the fans. He said there ought to at least be a lottery system to decide who gets the limited box seats available.
Worrell, who acknowledged being the part-owner of a box seat this past summer, said all sports have season ticket holders. “If we alienate them, they’ll never come back,” he noted.
Burchett said it is his understanding the waiting list for box seats is longer than the number of box seats available.
Hawley said it is PBI’s position that it has done a good job of keeping baseball in Pulaski at a reasonable ticket price. He noted that there will not be any increase in ticket prices in 2009.
“They’re going to try to increase revenue by trying to increase attendance,” he said.
“They don’t want to monkey with anything that’s not broken,” Hawley said, adding that some of the box seat ticket holders have had the box seats for nine years.
Welker said his two main concerns are trying to set up a payment plan on the batting tunnel and seeing if some picnic areas could be set up to give families a place to congregate during the game.
Worrell said PBI already has shown an interest in establishing some picnic areas in the park.
It was pointed out that Burchett’s and Welker’s concerns can be presented to PBI.
However, if PBI doesn’t agree to the proposals and if the Town Council insists they be part of the contract, “baseball will go away again,” Hawley said.

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