Questions swirl around Trash Pandas after CEO departure

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MADISON, Ala. – Questions continue to swirl around the Rocket City Trash Pandas one day after the resignation of their CEO and President Ralph Nelson. Meanwhile, city officials in Madison said the city has been assured by the team that all guaranteed money owed to the city will be paid in full.

News 19 asked Trash Pandas’ Vice President Lindsey Knupp if Ralph Nelson’s departure was tied to the club’s financial issues, and Knupp did not deny it.

“I can just say that all parties are mutually benefitting, and happy with the decision to move forward the way that they’re going,” said Knupp.

Nelson told News 19 on Wednesday that he was leaving the team to pursue another venture in minor league baseball. But his departure also follows a year of financial hurdles for the team. In January Nelson told the Madison City Council that the team was not obligated to pay the city $1 million dollars in guaranteed venue revenue. The Trash Pandas are now under audit.

“Per our lease agreement there is an audit that happens every year with the city of Madison, so we’re actively involved in that right now. There are a lot of moving parts, looking at all the events that we hosted and all the expenses and all of the revenue, and we have opened the doors fully to their audit team and their lawyers. Once that audit does go through, when it’s completed, we are paying them in full for everything,” said Knupp.

Knupp said the audit is expected to wrap over the next week. Meanwhile, Madison City Mayor Paul Finley declined multiple interview requests from News 19 on Thursday and referred all further questions to the Trash Pandas.

His office released a statement Thursday which said in part: “While the pandemic affected many businesses, the Trash Panda team successfully hosted over 175 separate community events throughout 2020 and have assured full payment to the city following the audit.”

Despite a year of financial challenges, Knupp said the team won’t be seeking further investors. “Our ownership group and our investor group are still fully intact. They are very supportive of everything we are doing,” Knupp.

Knupp added she’s now eager for the team to take the field.

“We’re getting that revenue in, sponsorship revenue is still coming through and we’re still now actively have people say yes I can book my outing, I can get out there,” said Knupp.

News 19 also reached out to investors tied to the Trash Pandas and Ballcorp to get their take on Nelson’s departure, and have yet to hear back.

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