City Leaders announce the signing of a license agreement to help bring Minor League baseball to Madison

MADISON, Ala. - The City of Madison officially announced that they have signed a lease, license, and management agreement with Ballcorps LLC. The agreement will help bring Minor League Baseball to Madison and the Town Madison development.

Madison City Leaders have been in negotiations with Ballcorps, LLC for a license agreement that the council recently gave Mayor Paul Finley permission to execute. The signed agreement gives BallCorps the go-ahead to apply to relocate the team it owns, the Mobile BayBears, to Madison. It also outlines how BallCorps would manage the stadium.

Mayor Finley says the agreement, which WHNT News 19 has requested from the city and has not yet received, includes BallCorps leasing the stadium for 30 years. The stadium, which would be 7000 seats and would not exceed $46 million, would also include space for a variety of other uses from the community. BallCorps would relocate not just a team, but its own offices to Madison to provide local ownership for the minor league baseball franchise.

The city will receive at least $1 million per year in rent from BallCorps. The city would use new taxes generated from Town Madison to pay back developer Louis Breland for its up-front costs for infrastructure, and the developer would donate the 32 acres of land to Madison for the stadium to be built there.

"He [Breland]... would be paid back through sales and property tax. To make this happen he has given us a number of $40 million," said Finley.

The city would need to pay a $3 million bond payment each year for thirty years to finance the stadium.

“We are excited to partner with Ralph Nelson and his team. City Council, Mayor, and staff have worked earnestly to take appropriate steps for our community to ensure success in this endeavor. After a detailed feasibility study, we are assured that this venture will support not only economic development in the City of Madison, but also create revenue for our school system and infrastructure needs as well,” said Mayor Paul Finley.

When Could Madison's Team Start Playing?

Mayor Paul Finley said the goal is to have the stadium ready to go at the end of 2019.

"Our goal in this case would be to have this venue open and ready in December 2019, giving them ample time to work out any possible kinks that we have and be ready for baseball April of 2020," he explained.

BallCorps will have its people in the community by late spring, early summer, to start forming corporate relationships to begin sponsorship and employment opportunities.

"This is going to be local ownership to the nth degree," he said. "We have investors from outside the area, but we have a lot from inside the area. And the management of this entire organization will be right here in the Madison area."

What Is Next?

BallCorps can now move forward with next steps. It will begin the process of requesting permission to relocate its team from Mobile to Madison. The plan is to start the application process on Wednesday.

Ralph Nelson, BallCorps Managing Partner, said he feels "really confident" about that process.

"I am really confident that we will get the relocations," he said. "We have had enough preliminary conversations with the President of the Southern League, with the President of Minor League Baseball, and my former coworkers in the Commissioner's office to know that we feel really good about this."

Nelson is also confident they chose the correct team to purchase to move this deal forward.

He said of the BayBears, "We purchased the only franchise I believe in all of baseball that minor league baseball would allow to relocate." Nelson said he feels confident that they will receive permission to move the team. The approval would need to come from the Southern League first, then Minor League Baseball and last, from Major League Baseball.

The BayBears already announced they would continue to play through 2019 in Mobile.

Meanwhile, the Madison City Council still needs to:

  • Finalize its development agreement with the property owner
  • Figure out some infrastructure details
  • Finalize the Town Madison Cooperative District Agreement Amendment  by negotiating the terms and funding mechanisms
  • Finish up value-engineering meetings to get a stadium cost down to the $46 million price point
  • Receive validation for warrant financing to go to the bond market to finance the stadium

"We have two more weeks of work," estimated Finley.

By late spring, early summer, Nelson said BallCorps would have an office in Madison. He also plans to move his family to town.

“We’ve been working for close to a year to become part of the Madison community. After personally spending 25 years working in Major League Baseball, I have just recently learned how Minor League teams provide such joy to families in cities such as Madison. We are so excited to be able provide an affordable and exciting destination to the great people of Northern Alabama. We look forward to the memories we will create together,” BallCorps Managing Partner, Ralph Nelson commented.

The BallCorps agreement Tuesday means that Madison beat the other competition for the stadium. BallCorps had identified multiple cities to scout, but Nelson said Madison was its first choice.

"It has been our first choice all along. It was where we wanted to be," he reassured.

Nelson said there were other options to consider as a Plan B, but he didn't give them much thought.

"We could have picked any market in the Southern League footprint," he stated, "and we learned very early in our research that by far, the best market for minor league baseball in the United States that did not have a team is this market right here." He added, "There is no one else now. Obviously, given the realities of business there are contingencies in the contract but we don't think there are going to be issues. I mean, if something happened and there was no contract, we would have to look elsewhere, but I don't see that happening. I would say that 99.5% of the conversations we have had have been with Madison."

WHNT News 19 has reached out to city officials for a copy of the signed agreement.