MADISON, Ala. – This was supposed to be the sophomore season for the Rocket City Trash Pandas but the pandemic prevented opening day a year ago.
That meant no fans in the stands or parking revenue.
But the organization still had bills to pay, including a minimum of $1 million guaranteed to the City of Madison that was due April 15.
Club owner BallCorps LLC and the City of Madison have been in discussions about how much the city is owed, given the forced shutdown of minor league baseball last year.
The Madison City Council Monday agreed to a deal with the Trash Pandas for payments from the season that never took place.
That agreement came after Madison waited to get a clearer picture of the club’s finances and confirm the amount due to the city, through an annual audit called for in the city’s deal with the club.
The City of Madison Tuesday evening declined News 19 request for a copy of the audit, citing a “confidentiality agreement with BallCorps.”
Ballcorps has agreed to pay more than $483,000 in stadium equipment costs by year’s end. The bulk of that payment involves concession equipment and about $13,000 for video screens. Those payments carry a 3.25 interest charge starting in June, according to documents provided by the City of Madison.
They agreed Madison is owed a total of $545,177 from non-baseball events and naming revenue. Officials said the club has paid about $177,000 of that money, which also includes $77,000 in sales taxes.
The Madison City Council agreed to waive $377,668 from the $1 million minimum payment the club is supposed to pay the city each year.
The remaining balance is scheduled to be paid in four $100,000 installments from June to September.
The negotiations came against the backdrop of a contract that gives the two sides an out under extraordinary circumstances. The contract the two sides signed in 2018, includes a force majeure clause, which allows for contract terms to be voided if an unforeseeable event – like the cancellation of the season – takes place.
So, with no baseball revenue, they were left to negotiate over the money generated by non-baseball events held by the Trash Pandas.
Former Trash Pandas CEO Ralph Nelson, who left the team in April, told the city council in January the club scrambled to make up for lost revenue by hosting 175 other events, generating $1.79 million.
Nelson also said the club has raised $4 million in merchandise sales since its inception. The city is entitled to sales tax revenue from merchandise sales, but merchandise revenue is not part of the club’s contract with Madison.
Madison has borrowed $46 million to build the stadium the Trash Pandas call home.
News 19 has asked Madison for the correspondence between the two sides concerning payment discussions, but the city has declined. The city’s attorney said it would be too burdensome to go through the correspondence and records about the negotiations were too sensitive.
The payment terms are nearly identical to the numbers Nelson presented to the city council in January.
It remains unclear what the audit, the audit’s delay and the negotiations were aimed at – since the two sides ended up with the numbers they started with in January.
One major difference, Nelson had pledged to pay all the money by April 15, with the exception of the equipment costs. Under the current deal – the city is getting paid in installments through September.