Blasters Release Statement on Possible Lease Restructure
From Gabriel Suarez, Joplin Blasters CEO
The Blasters came to Joplin because we enjoy the city, citizens, and surrounding areas and we were told that we would have much higher attendance numbers than we have today. The Blasters have paid our first two lease payments in accordance with the current lease; however, with attendance not meeting original expectations they are not able to continue forward with this lease and have proposed a new lease that extends the debt over a longer period of time keeping the Blasters in Joplin indefinitely. Recently, certain details of this lease restructure proposal the Blasters gave to the city on September 30 have been revealed.
The original lease between the City and the Blasters was signed based on the assumption of an average paid attendance of 2,500 to 3,000 fans per game for 50 games equaling 125,000 to 150,000 fans for the season. The lease calls for a $150,000 annual payment plus 33% of operating costs which has averaged about $7,000 per quarter. The term of the lease was 20 years and 2 months and provides the use of the stadium to the Blasters for the dates of May 1 through September 10, NOT the entire year. This equals a payment of $34,642.03 per month for the 4.33 months the Blasters have use of the stadium and excludes one week during the summer for the City to operate the Premiere Baseball Tournament at Joe Becker Stadium. If the Blasters wish to use Joe Becker Stadium outside of those dates there is a $500 fee per day which would have to be paid for potential playoff dates that occur when the Blasters make the postseason.
Before the Blasters agreed to the lease it was understood that the City and the Blasters would analyze first year operations to make sure the lease was appropriate for both parties’ financial and operational purposes.
The fan attendance for the Inaugural Year was 1,538 fans per game for 45 games totaling 69,222 fans for the year. However, only 46,531 of the 69,222 were paying fans making the average paid attendance per game 1,038 fans. This makes us similar to the Sioux City and Laredo clubs which have significantly lower lease terms than what we have proposed (Sioux City and Laredo were the two teams in the American Association finals this year). Throughout the Inaugural Season the fact that a restructuring of the lease would be needed, based on the numbers coming in, was discussed between Blasters and city representatives. The Joplin Blasters sent a request to discuss a lease restructure on September 11, 2015 to city council members and staff. The request for a lease restructure and meeting on September 30 was not a surprise. During that meeting on September 30 two proposals were given along with stadium fixes that have been requested throughout the year. The two proposals were as follows:
Proposal A: Extend the Debt to 60 Years
· 2015 Lease Payment of $75,000
· Annual lease payment of $50,000 thereafter paid at the end of each quarter
Proposal B: Extend the Debt to 40 Years
· 2015 Lease Payment of $75,000
· First 5 years lease payment of $50,000 thereafter paid at the end of each quarter
· Re-negotiate terms at the end of the 5th year (End of 2020 season)
Both of these proposals extend the debt. In neither of these do the Blasters ask for a forgiveness on the total amount needed to be paid. These proposals do two things:
· They allow the Blasters to operate based on actual attendance numbers
· It guarantees the Blasters stay in Joplin indefinitely
With that being said, the Blasters had close to 70,000 fans come through the turnstiles not counting all the workers and out-of-town teams. The Blasters’ games have become a gathering place for family, friends, and businesses. The team has helped to showcase and raise money for multiple charities, helped increase local businesses revenues on game nights, contributed to the tax base, and filled hotels. This has not been seen in Joplin for a long time on a consistent basis and shows what entertainment like the Blasters can do for the city’s quality of life. The Blasters will continue to grow but the team needs to be able to do that with a lease that reflects real data and not based on projected numbers that are not accurate.
The support from the Blasters’ fan base and business partners has been tremendous at this time and we would like to thank them. The main goal is to have the Blasters here for generations and that will be accomplished with the support of the City, the citizens, and the business community.