Skip to main content

Rochester Red Wings

Doing the math: Rochester Community Baseball may profit from sale of Muckdogs

By WBTA News

While baseball fans in Batavia stand a chance to lose in the potential sale of the Muckdogs, Rochester Community Baseball may just come out a winner.

It was nearly two-and-a-half years ago that RCB stepped in and saved the Batavia Muckdogs franchise from folding. RCB, which also owns the Rochester Red Wings, offered to pay off the Batavia team's debts -- roughly $140,000 -- and also operate the team on a day-to-day basis.

Naturally, that offer that was gladly taken up by the City of Batavia and the Genesee County Baseball Club.

Soon after inheriting operations, the Muckdogs poured $87,000 into repairing the field at Dwyer Stadium, which had seen plenty of abuse from both high school baseball games and youth football matches in the outfield grass.

In the first year, RCB would lose about a quarter of a million dollars. In 2009, RCB took another hit -- in the neighborhood of $120,000. That's a rough total of $370,000 that RCB willingly ate in just two years.

Though numbers for this year obviously aren't yet final, early estimates say another $120,000 deficit is within reason, taking into account inflation and the economy. All told, that would be about $500,000 in losses taken by RCB to operate the team over the past three years.

However -- and this is where things get interesting -- one contract stipulation in the original deal is often glossed over: each year RCB operated the Muckdogs, they were to acquire 5 percent ownership of the franchise, with a 10-year cap on that deal (RCB could not own more than 50 percent of the team). After this third year of operation, RCB will own 15 percent of the Muckdogs franchise.

If they drop the day-to-day operations, as is "likely" according to today's news release, they cannot gain any further ownership in the team. Thus, if the team is sold following this season, RCB will receive 15 percent of the sale price.

Since teams in the NY-Penn League are not sold at a rapid rate, the general value of a ballclub is estimated by the league's most recent sale.

In 2008, the Oneonta Tigers were sold for about $6 million (they were moved out of their hometown this winter, and became the Connecticut Tigers this summer). Though terms of that sale were never officially released, $6 million is the accepted figure whispered among the league, as reported by GCBC Board Member and NY-Penn League expert Wayne Fuller.

Thus, the sale value of the Batavia Muckdogs and every other team in the league is $6 million.

That, of course, does not mean the team will be sold for that much; however, it is in the best interest of the NY-Penn League and Major League Baseball that the team not sell for much less than that. When one team sells for less than $6 million, every team in the league will likewise depreciate in value.

If the team does in fact sell for $6 million, RCB will receive 15 percent -- roughly $900,000. With a $500,000 operating loss, that factors out to a $400,000 profit. Even if the Muckdogs were to sell for $4 million, 15 percent of that is still $600,000 -- an overall $100,000 gain for RCB.

Attorney for the GCBC, Tom Williams, says he doesn't believe RCB brokered the deal with the plan to turn a profit by selling the team.

"I think they made a good-faith effort to make (the team) profitable," says Williams, "and then they just decided that they don't want to continue on. But I think they did it with the best of intentions, and they have been very honorable all the way through."

WBTA's Wayne Fuller, a member of the GCBC Board of Directors, says that in 2007, when the Muckdogs were also in trouble, the GCBC was told that the NY-Penn League could take over the franchise if the club failed to generate sufficient finances.

The same is a possibility here -- if the GCBC and RCB fail to generate enough money to run the club, and no buyer is found, the league does have the ability to absord the franchise -- which would leave the GCBC and RCB without any money. So it's in the best interest of both clubs to sell or continue operating the team.

Williams isn't yet worried about the possibility of losing the Muckdogs to the league.

"I think that we would find something to do before that happened," he says. "We expect that we're going to get some interest in the team. If it's just flat and there's absolutely no interest, then I think we're going to have to look that and decide what we're going to do.

"But I really don't think that's going to happen...I don't think we'll have that problem."

UPDATE: Continued coverage of Muckdogs' search for buyer

By WBTA News

CLICK HERE for WBTA's full in-depth report today

...(Genesee County Baseball Club President) Brian Paris says he's particularly searching for someone not connected with this area and unaware of the situation, to recognize the ballclub's worth, both financial and sentimental.

He says that sponsor could easily work a re-naming deal for the stadium as a trade for their funding. At the least, he dreams of a large corporate sponsorship that would guarantee RCB sticks around for team operations.

But that's no guarantee. And sale of the team is a very real possibility.

Tom Williams is the attorney for the GCBC and will deal with the sale. He's not yet sure what kind of a price a minor league professional baseball club could go for these days.

"($6 million is) the kind of number that I've heard," he says. "I think (speculators) might be basing those numbers on what another team sold for recently" -- the Oneonta Tigers were sold for about $6 million just two years ago (according to WBTA's Wayne Fuller), and moved to Connecticut this past winter -- "but obviously...something's worth whatever somebody pays for it. We'll have to wait and see."

There is a chance that if the team does not sell, Major League Baseball would re-absorb it and remove it from the ownership of both GCBC and RCB -- and the clubs would potentially come away with no monetary compensation from a sale, which could net as much as $6 million. Williams isn't concerned about that just yet.

"I think that we would find something to do before that happened," says Williams. "We expect that we're going to get some interest in the team. If it's just flat and there's absolutely no interest, then I think we'll have to look at that, and decide what to do.

"But I really don't think that will happen. I think there will definitely be some interest."

WBTA's own Wayne Fuller, Voice of the Muckdogs for years, member of the GCBC Board of Directors -- and generally considered Batavia’s Mr. Baseball -- is somewhat saddened by the news.

"This is something that I've known for a couple of months now," says Wayne. "The board of directors, including myself, voted (in May) in favor of soliciting offers for the purchase of the franchise. We did not vote to sell the team; only to solicit offers."

Whatever may happen, today's announcement is one that many Batavians knew was coming, but didn't want to believe. Regardless, it is now a reality that the team may leave town -- and the collective air in the lungs of the Batavia community has, at least partially, been let out.

Paris says this is not the time for that. If there were ever a time to get out and support your hometown baseball team, it's now - more than ever.

"I absolutely believe that this team could stay in Batavia," declares Paris. "I believe Batavians don't give up. I believe that we will get people to come out and say 'No, we don't want (the Muckdogs) to leave, we want them to stay. We're going to show you we don't want them to leave by coming out in numbers.'

"Furthermore, should the team be sold: nobody's going to leave it in Batavia if there isn't support. So now is not the time to remove support. Now is the time to step up and support (the Muckdogs), regardless of the outcome."

NY-P league president thinks future is bright in Batavia

By Brian Hillabush

When times were rough and it looked like the failures in the management of the Batavia Muckdogs franchise was going to cost the city a team, New York-Pennsylvania League president Ben Hayes admits he was on the fence. 

He said after the sixth inning of tonight’s game that it was tough for him to back keeping one of the NY-P’s original franchises in the league because of how bad things were. But he didn’t pull the plug because of Batavia’s history and because of the job done by the Rochester Red Wings.

He was impressed that the first playoff appearance for the franchise in eight years has brought out plenty of fans – 789 to be exact - on a chilly Wednesday night in September.

Combine the on field victories and the progress made in rebuilding the historic franchise and the league feels good about the Batavia situation.

“This is a win-win,” Hayes said. “What Naomi Silver and the Red Wings – Dan Mason, Gary Larder – what they have done is an experience in professionalism that is top-notch in Minor League baseball.”

Of course, everybody knows about the terrible financial problems that nearly left Dwyer Stadium without a team this summer, and how Naomi Silver and her Red Wings stepped in the bail out the team.

When the situation looked its worst, Hayes ducked phone calls by the media. The Muckdogs were not my beat at The Daily News, but I heard reporters talk about the frustrations of not getting a phone call (or three) returned.

He had no problem speaking to me now that I'm at The Batavian, shortly before the Muckdogs picked up a 3-2 victory over Lowell to advance to the league championship series.

Hayes was sitting with Silver and expects that the disappointing attendance figures for this season will not be a problem next year after the Red Wings get a full offseason to work on promotions.

“They got started very late in the marketing season,” Hayes said. “The other clubs started marketing two weeks after the season. The Rochester Red Wings didn’t take over operation of the club until the end of March. It was very, very late in the season, so to speak. I don’t think you will see anything different, but over an extended period of time the momentum will be a lot different. The problems have been fixed (with the stadium and the finances). Now they can focus on other things.”

While the former professional baseball player turned league president is optimistic, he realizes that there is still work to be done – the biggest of which is the support of local baseball fans, or rather, lack their of.

Batavia was 13th out of 14 teams in the NY-P in attendance at 43,167 during the regular season. Those numbers are going to have to go up.

Hayes says that the sellouts can’t just come on the 4th of July. Batavians need to get out to watch some quality Minor League baseball at a reasonable price.

If not, the talk about the franchise leaving town that engulfed the city of Batavia last winter could be back in the future. He has faith that the Red Wings will do a good job with promotions, but says it is up to the locals if we want professional baseball in Batavia.

“It really depends on the community and the fans, and if they are going to support the team,” Hayes said. “There has to be enough revenue for this team to survive. The cost of umpires, the cost of travel – all the costs associated with being a minor league club. It’s not an image, it’s an endeavor. In order to put the product out there for the community, the community has to support the product.”

Council approves funds that may be used to maintain Dwyer field

By Howard B. Owens

The Rochester Red Wings will get another $15,000 for improvements to Dwyer Stadium this year after the City Council approved 5-3 a resolution authorization the expenditure.

Councilman Bill Cox led the opposition, saying that taxpayers should not subsidize private enterprise.  He objected specifically to the funds being used for grounds keeping.

"We're being asked to do this with no specific knowledge of any bricks or mortar or steel that needs to be repaired," Cox said.

The money is coming from the city's capital budget and, according to City Attorney George Van Nest, is consistent with previous grant requirements for the city to maintain the stadium.

Previously, the city entered into an agreement with the Red Wings with payments of $10,000 and $15,000 this year, $20,000 next year and $25,000 the following year.  Council President Charlie Mallow indicated the resolution was consistent with that agreement.

City Manager Jason Molino made the point that grounds upkeep is appropriate use of Capital Account funding, because "without a field, you don't have a stadium."

The Red Wings are currently operating the Batavia Muckdogs.

UPDATE: Buffalo News correspondent Bill Brown filed this report on the council proceedings. 

Fixing up the ball field

By Philip Anselmo

The City Council voted unanimously to approve a $10,000 fund transfer — another $15,000 will be voted on at the next meeting — to fix up the ball field at Dwyer Stadium, home to the Batavia Muckdogs. A recent inspection of the field by the grounds crew found an uneven field ravaged in some spots by divots.

Naomi Silver came by the meeting to talk about the proposed maintenance. Silver heads up the business side of the Rochester Red Wings that took over management of the Muckdogs in early March.

When Silver was questioned about how long the Rochester group planned to manage the Muckdogs — even if it failed to turn a significant profit — she said: "We want to come here. We don't want to get rich on it. We want to do the right thing."

Silver called the Red Wings relationship with the Muckdogs "a true labor of love."

Authentically Local