MADISON, Ala. — Minor league baseball is finally active in North Alabama and the Rocket City Trash Pandas have finished their first home opener series! This, all while questions still surround the team and where they stand financially.
Back in January, former President and CEO of the Rocket City Trash Pandas, Ralph Nelson, said they owed over $645,000 to the city. Specifically, $545,177.53 from non-baseball events and $101,571.62 from city sales tax. Even with a rough estimate, the actual amount owed has yet to be released.
Madison Mayor Paul Finley said the auditors completed their work at the end of April, but now it’s the middle of May and the exact amount owed is still in question.
The ballpark lease agreement says that money is due by April 15 every year, but on April 22, Mark Holland, who is over the finances for Ballcorps, LLC, sent a letter to Mayor Finley asking to allow the auditors additional time.
“We believe it would benefit both parties to allow the auditor additional time to complete his important work. Due to personnel changes and the need for further clarity on a few matters, we believe an additional month would permit both parties the time needed to review and confirm all necessary information. You have our commitment that the Team will pay all Venue Revenues owed to the City and confirmed by the auditor.”Mark Holland
Even so, Mayor Finley confirmed with News 19 on Monday that they have not set a timeframe for the completion and release of the audit’s information.
Because Toyota Field is a taxpayer-funded facility, News 19 sent an Open Records Request on April 21 to the City of Madison asking for communication between them and Ballcorps, LLC.
On May 14, 23 days later, the Open Records Request was denied.
“The City respectfully denies your request for all correspondence between the City and BallCorps within the last two months pursuant to certain exceptions to the state’s Open Records Act. The records request is quite broad, and responding to it would be unduly burdensome on City staff.”Megan Zingarelli, City Attorney
News 19 has offered to help pay retrieval costs for the correspondence but was still denied.
Even though questions still remain, we are working to find out how this Madison City taxpayer-funded facility is doing financially and when the City might see some money back in the bank.
The agreement between Madison and Ballcorps states a minimum of $1 million per year will be paid from venue revenue.
Mayor Paul Finley says he is confident Ballcorps will pay the money that is owed, but with no baseball last year, and a contract clause that covers unexpected calamites, like being shut down for a pandemic, there’s no word on how much it will be able to pay.