SALISBURY – The Delmarva Shorebirds team is seeking to change its lease agreement with the county after its 2020 season was canceled.
In a work session last week, Delmarva Shorebirds General Manager Chris Bitters came before the Wicomico County Council seeking an amendment to its concessions agreement for the Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.
“Our goal is to make this request and still make the agreement whole essentially over a period of time,” he said.
Bitters said he’s requested the county waive the team’s $100,000 commitment for amusement tax payment for the 2020 season and accept the $55,239 that it had already collected for the year. He also asked that the county reduce its $100,000 minimum for the 2021 season to $44,761.
“The new minimum would become the difference of the $100,000 and the $55,239 that was already paid to Wicomico County,” he said.
In return, Bitters said the team would waive its 2020 electricity savings agreement – which comes as a benefit to the Shorebirds – and extend its concessions agreement with the county an additional year.
“Instead of expiring in 2037, it would expire in 2038,” he said.
Councilman John Cannon questioned if other Minor League Baseball teams were making similar requests.
“I’m sure we’re not the only ones faced with this …,” he said. “Are they requesting similar arrangements with government entities?”
Bitters noted that most teams were reevaluating their lease agreements with municipalities after the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the season.
“This is a pretty common request in our industry at this point in time,” he said.
Councilman Bill McCain said he supported Bitters’ request.
“I think the request you are making is very fair, is temporary in nature,” he said, “and also given the fact you all offered to extend the agreement out another year to make up for it, I think it’s a very fair request.”
When asked what the electricity savings agreement waiver would save the county, Recreation, Parks and Tourism Director Steve Miller said it could range from $6,000 to $10,000.
“So that would be a savings for this year,” he said.
Cannon questioned if the Shorebirds had sought CARES Act funding or any other financial assistance.
“Chris is in the process with the county officials that administer that program and pursuing what options there are,” Miller replied.
With no further discussion, the council agreed to schedule a public hearing on the proposed amendments at its Nov. 17 meeting.
“From what they contribute to this community, I think it’s a small price to ask,” Cannon said.
The council last week also agreed to hold a public hearing on a proposed five-year lease extension between the county and the Eastside Youth Sports Complex in Willards.
Miller said the lease, which began in 1999, expired last year. He noted the county was interested in renewing the contract.
“From the county’s perspective, we hold a number of leases with volunteer groups and the Eastside is at the top of the list as far as the care and responsibility they take in the facility …,” he said. “We feel they do an excellent job.”
The public hearing will also be held on Nov. 17.