Lawmakers looking to audit and review economic impact of state’s two MLB stadiums – WPXI
PITTSBURGH – State lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed at reviewing the economic impact each of the state’s two Major League Baseball stadiums has had on their respective regions.
“The Pirates and Phillies are valued and historic assets in their communities … this legislation is intended to document contributions to their respective regions and help ensure their historic presence within their communities for generations to come” , said Rep. Tim Bonner. , R-Butler/Mercer.
Bonner was joined by his co-sponsor, fellow Republican Rep. Jim Gregory, R-Blair, for a news conference outside PNC Park on Friday, announcing the legislation.
The announcement comes as the Phillies play in the World Series. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Pirates finished the season with 100 losses.
“The Pittsburgh Pirates have been reluctant to open their books for the community to determine if they are struggling financially or if they have the resources to field a more competitive team,” Bonner said.
The law requires two measures. If approved, the Independent Fiscal Office would conduct studies on regional economic benefits from taxpayer-funded stadiums.
“This is legislation to quantify the impact these two ball clubs have had in their regions,” Gregory said. “But there are things that can’t be quantified and that’s the amount of hope that builds when you go to your first game, when you go through a pennant.”
The legislation also calls for the Pennsylvania auditor general to audit the teams’ financial calculations.
Under a deal made more than two decades ago, called the Capital Facilities Debt Enabling Act of 1999, four of the state’s sports entities received state funding for new stadiums. The Phillies and Eagles each received $85 million, while the Steelers and Pirates each received $75 million, as a one-time payment for a 30-year lease.
According to Bonner and Gregory, that agreement requires each team to report financials in 10-year intervals. Teams are expected to pay $25 million per decade unless they show they generated additional tax revenue in excess of $25 million.
After the first 10-year period, all clubs exceeded that amount, meaning “they made no real payment to the state for the use of the facilities,” Bonner said, noting that this result had been expected. But none of the reports were audited.
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Reports for the second 10-year period are due this year.
“We’re particularly interested in the Pirates’ tax credit claim over the last 10 years because we’re seeing a decline in attendance and a salary structure well below MLB averages,” Bonner said.
Bonner stressed that he has no reason to suspect wrongdoing by either team.
The legislation currently focuses on the two MLB teams, but the two NFL teams could also be looked at.
“We don’t expect any kind of impropriety,” Bonner said. “These are four outstanding organizations … this legislation is intended to address some of the concerns that we have, but to seek remediation. We’re not looking to punish, we’re not looking to shame. We’re looking to make sure that these organizations remain in these communities for decades to come , and we believe this process will be helpful in achieving that goal.”
“We don’t know what will come of it, but someone will get a good deal. For me, I want to make sure that the people of Pennsylvania get the best deal in the new negotiations,” Gregory said.
Channel 11 asked the legislators what the cost of the audits and studies would be. They stated that an exact cost is unknown, but it is expected to be “minimal” in any case.
Channel 11 reached out to representatives for the Steelers and Pirates to see if the teams had a response and to ask if they would cooperate with any potential audit. A Steelers spokesman declined to comment. We have not yet received a response from the Pirates.
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