The clock is ticking for the Asheville Tourists minor league baseball team. The club must wrangle up a plan to pay for improvements to McCormick Field required by Major League Baseball before Saturday, April 1, or lose its affiliation license — sending the team to another city.
Asheville could be the first local government to throw the Tourists a lifeline. City Council will consider whether to commit up to $20 million over 20 years for renovations to the stadium during its meeting of Tuesday, March 14.
As previously reported by Xpress, McCormick Field has been home to a minor league baseball team for each of the past 64 years. The current Tourists franchise, according to a city staff report, brings in roughly $9.8 million in local spending annually for Buncombe County.
A March 7 presentation to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners estimated that the total cost of the required improvements, “strongly recommended pro sports” upgrades and extra fan amenities, including interest on borrowing for the project, would exceed $56.1 million. The city would chip in up to $1 million per year for 20 years, with the remainder of the funds coming from other government sources and the Tourists organization itself.
The Tourists are owned by the family of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and DeWine Seeds Silver Dollar Baseball, who have leased McCormick Stadium from the city for $1 a year since 2010.
If a funding plan for the stadium is approved, the team would enter into a new lease with the city, with payments of at least $450,000 per year for a minimum of 20 years (all going toward the improvement project.) The team would also be required to invest at least $75,000 per year in additional capital improvements to the facility.
Buncombe County, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority and North Carolina state government could also aid in paying for the stadium work, but those sources have yet to guarantee support. The county Board of Commissioners plans to vote on whether to contribute $5 million toward the renovations at its next meeting Tuesday, March 21.
In other news
Council will hear an update on the city’s use of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. No further details or presentation materials were available as of press time.
A budget work session will precede the regular Council meeting at 3 p.m. The meeting is open to the public, but public comment is not permitted. No further details were available as of press time.
Consent agenda and public comment
The consent agenda for the meeting contains six items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following:
- A resolution authorizing settlement agreements with Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Allergan and Teva in litigation over the companies’ role in the opioid epidemic. The city of Asheville could receive up to $1.2 million from the settlement to address the epidemic’s local impacts; Buncombe County is slated to receive nearly $13 million from the settlement over the next 15 years.
- Adoption of an 8-year agreement between Carolina Day School and the city of Asheville that gives the city’s Parks and Recreation access to the school’s Sgro Athletic Complex when not in use by the school. The 17.96-acre facility includes two athletic fields, a 8,900-square-foot building with bathroom facilities, women’s and men’s locker rooms, a large community room and parking. The city will pay electricity and other costs estimated at $9,500 annually.
- A resolution executing a contract of up to $360,000 with US ISS Agency LLC for up to three years of police applicant background checks and polygraph testing. A staff report accompanying the resolution notes that, due to understaffing, the APD doesn’t have the personnel to complete these tasks in house.
Council members will gather in their chambers on the second floor of City Hall, located at 70 Court Plaza, starting at 5 p.m. The meeting will also be carried live on Charter/Spectrum Channel 193 and livestreamed through Asheville’s public engagement hub and on the city’s YouTube channel. Members of the public can also listen live by calling 855-925-2801, meeting code 3368.
Those who wish to speak during the meeting must attend in person and sign up at the door. No live remote comment will be permitted. Prerecorded voicemail messages can also be left at 855-925-2801, meeting code 3368; written comments can be sent to AshevilleCityCouncilMar142023@PublicInput.com until 9 a.m. March 28. General comments for City Council can be sent at any time to AshevilleNCCouncil@AshevilleNC.gov.
The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.