HIGH POINT — Many tenant-landlord relationships have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic, and one involving the city-owned stadium is no exception.
The loss of the High Point Rockers baseball season wiped out the team’s primary revenue source for the year. High Point Baseball Inc., the nonprofit that operates the team, has not paid the city the $300,000 for the lease of Truist Point and the $500,000 in naming rights proceeds that are due every Oct. 31.
The two sides report that they’re working on a compromise.
What options are under consideration? Modifications of lease terms? Extension of the deadline? The city isn’t saying.
“We are in talks with them,” Assistant City Manager Eric Olmedo said. “At some point, there will be a council discussion. That’s about all I can say.”
The financing plan that the city used to make the case for the stadium in 2017 relies on $300,000 in annual lease payments from the team to the city for 20 years and $500,000 a year for 15 years in naming rights donations from Truist Bank.
The naming-rights money comes to the city from the team, not the bank, Olmedo said.
Both revenue streams are supposed to go to pay off the city’s bond debt on the stadium, under the financing plan the city presented to multiple organizations in 2017, including the North Carolina Local Government Commission.
Other sources that the city plans to use for the bond debt include incremental property tax revenue from new development around the stadium, a portion of ticket sales from Rockers games and a $250,000-a-year commitment from Visit High Point.
The city’s total projected repayment on the stadium bonds, including interest, is $49.7 million through 2038. This year’s payment is $2.62 million.
Rockers President Pete Fisch said the idea of not passing on the naming rights money this year “hasn’t really been discussed,” but the loss of 70 Atlantic League home games poses a major financial threat.
“We’re looking at every element of our agreement with the city, and that includes the naming rights,” he said. “Our main source of business and source of revenue was basically not just slashed — it was eliminated. Obviously, this is an unprecedented year. I don’t think anybody putting together a lease or a user agreement could ever plan for what we’re going through. We would have never envisioned we would not play a single Rockers game during the season.”
The stadium has hosted more than 250 amateur baseball games this year, but state restrictions on mass gatherings limit the number of fans who can attend.
“We’ve opened for lunch. We’ve opened for dinner. We’ve shown that the ballpark is a viable venue, despite not having Rockers baseball,” Fisch said. “We’re looking at making sure, every month, we can take care of our responsibilities and get to next season.”
The goal is to get an Atlantic League schedule set for 2021 and begin planning for next season.
“I think we’re in a position where we should be able to do that without a problem,” Fisch said. “The city’s been a really good partner in opening the lines of dialog to talk about how we’re going to deal with this for this year and also going forward.”
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