Stadium prompting a lawsuit
February 19. 2013 3:08AM
Lackawanna County plans to respond to its neighbor to the south and file a counter-suit today against Luzerne County over the possible sale of the Triple-A baseball franchise.
The suit is in the works, said Lackawanna County Commissioner A.J. Munchak and will demand payment from Luzerne County.
“What we are doing, we are preparing to file a lawsuit against Luzerne County for half of the expense that we put into the stadium since 2003,” he said Thursday.
Munchak estimated that Lackawanna County spent a minimum of $14 million on the stadium, which since has been renamed PNC Field.
He said the suit was not in retaliation to the one Luzerne County filed in late August demanding half of the proceeds should the franchise be sold.
“It’s pure logic,” said Munchak, adding that if Luzerne County wants its cut of the sale, it must “pony up” for the expense.
The money would help Lackawanna County match the $20 million offered by Gov. Ed Rendell and either pay for a new stadium or renovate the existing 21-year-old facility in Moosic.
But what effect another lawsuit would have on the franchise sale remains to be seen. The purchase price of the franchise increases to $14.6 million after today from $13 million under the terms of an agreement that brought the top minor league team of the New York Yankees to the area in 2007.
Former Lackawanna County commissioner Robert Cordaro negotiated the deal that gives the company managing the franchise, SWB Yankees LLC, a partnership between Mandalay Baseball Properties and the New York Yankees, the option to buy it.
The state made the sale a key condition of its funding commitment, but critics countered it could lead to the relocation of the franchise.
No offer had been made as of late Thursday.
“I anticipate that we’ll be in receipt of something. I have no idea when,” said Lackawanna County commissioner Corey O’Brien. When an offer is made the commissioners will “have to make the determination as to whether or not we believe it’s in the best interest” of Lackawanna County, he said.
Luzerne County Commissioner Steve Urban doubted the merits of the planned lawsuit and said Lackawanna County is not living up to the 1986 agreement that brought the franchise to Northeastern Pennsylvania. Up until 2007 when the franchise became the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, it had been the Philadelphia Phillies’ affiliate, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons.
“They’re trying to swindle us out of our half of the proceeds,” said Urban.
Luzerne County put up $2 million for the franchise and was reimbursed for half by Lackawanna County. The proceeds of the sale are to be split after paying $345,000 to the Lackawanna County Multipurpose Stadium Authority, which operates the facility.
The agreement does not require Luzerne County to contribute to the stadium’s operation, said Urban.
“Just show me in the agreement where it says that,” he said.
Jerry Lynott, a Times Leader staff writer, can be contacted at 570 829-7237.