Commissioners Corey O‚??Brien and Mike Washo delivered the news at a hastily called 8 p.m. press conference held at second base at the empty field that is home to the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.
O‚??Brien, who is running for re-election in next week‚??s heated primary, said Corbett‚??s administration notified the county just hours earlier.
O‚??Brien and Washo thanked Corbett, a Republican, and said they would ask him for another $5 million to complete the $25 million initially requested for the project that is matched with $37 million from SWB Yankees LLC.
‚??Without his commitment here tonight, Triple-A baseball would have left the region in the next three to five years. There is absolutely no doubt about that,‚?Ě said O‚??Brien.
The commissioners and the Lackawanna County Multi-Purpose Stadium Authority were faced with undertaking major renovations at the facility that opened in 1989 in order to keep the franchise and they lacked the money for the project.
Last year, they agreed to sell the franchise to SWB Yankees LLC, a joint venture between Mandalay Baseball Properties LLC and Yankee Global Enterprises LLC. The deal has yet to be concluded.
Still to be decided is whether Luzerne County is entitled to half of the proceeds of the franchise sale. The county put up $1 million to buy it in 1986.
O‚??Brien declined to talk about the status of the litigation between the counties over the sale. Instead, he and Washo focused on the news of the funding.
Washo acknowledged people have been impatient and asking about the state money, which comes from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. He added many were worried Corbett would not fund the project because of the state‚??s massive deficit and cuts the governor has proposed in his budget.
‚??This is not money that could go for social programs, for instance,‚?Ě said Washo. ‚??This is money that‚??s dedicated to construction projects, so it‚??s really important to make that distinction.‚?Ě
The project will create several hundred union construction jobs and deliver economic benefits to Northeastern Pennsylvania, the commissioners said.
Just like the commissioners, the governor had a lot to consider in deciding on funding the stadium renovation, Washo said.
‚??He did it and we‚??re ever so grateful to him for seeing the merits that Gov. Rendell saw in this project, so tonight‚??s a night to rejoice,‚?Ě said Washo. The request for the money was made while Ed Rendell was governor.
Washo and O‚??Brien added there is the possibility Corbett will not come through with the $5 million.
‚??It‚??s not a deal breaker in any way,‚?Ě said Washo.
‚??We‚??re going to make it work,‚?Ě said O‚??Brien.
The timing of the governor‚??s announcement was out of the commissioners‚?? control, they said.
‚??We found out about it a few hours ago,‚?Ě said O‚??Brien.
Washo, who is not running for re-election, dismissed the suggestion that it was done to give O‚??Brien an advantage in the primary.
‚??Projects don‚??t go on political calendars,‚?Ě said Washo.
However, he suggested that O‚??Brien enjoy the good fortune.
‚??If I were Corey, I‚??d be very happy that it just happened,‚?Ě said Washo.