Clark Griffith says he's ready to put money down on a lease for an independent Northern League team at the 24,000-seat TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha, the new home of the College World Series beginning in 2011. But whether the numbers work remains to be seen.
Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority (MECA) officials say they optimistic either the American Association or the Northern League will field a team in downtown Omaha beginning next season. We're not quite sure the American Association is even interested anymore: as it's been explained to us by AA owners and GMs, the circuit was interested in Omaha before it was clear the Omaha Royals (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) would obtain financing for a new Sarpy County ballpark. With the O-Royals staying in the market and some details leaking about how much rent MECA was expecting, there was considerably less enthusiasm for Omaha among league officials (as well as Northern League owners we met), and we've not heard any talk about it lately.
So we're guessing if Clark Griffith really wants the market he can have it. Of course, his enthusiasm comes before he's seen any lease proposals from MECA. He'd need to swallow the same deal offered to the O-Royals -- remember, the enabling legislation for the ballpark specifically forbids any "sweetheart deals," so the same offer is presented to all comers -- and rejected by the O-Royals. Now, the O-Royals wanted to assume some management of the ballpark as well, and a Northern League team may not want that. But given the relatively limited sources of revenue at the ballpark for a tenant -- gate receipts, a chunk of concessions, non-permanent signage -- we think Clark may be a little less enthusiastic once he crunches the numbers. Remember: the going rate for per-game rental at TD Ameritrade Park is $10,000. Good luck with that.
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