Custom Search

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What's going on in Long Beach...

From the Gazette newspapers...

Armada Owners Prepare To Sue City Over Blair Field Permit

By Harry Saltzgaver
Executive Editor
Published: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 5:02 PM PST
The Golden Baseball League, owners of the Long Beach Armada, is one step away from suing the city for terminating its permit to play baseball at Blair Field this summer.

While the legal path has just begun, it seems clear there will be no Armada baseball sailing in Long Beach this year. California State University, Long Beach, already controls maintenance of the field and expected to sign a long-term lease with the city in the next month or two, and that lease includes the right to negotiate any new permits for field use.

Tuesday night, the City Council was notified of a claim from the league’s attorney saying that the permit had been wrongfully terminated. While the claim mentions a separate claim for damages, only the claim itself was forwarded by the city attorney’s office. The deputy city attorney handling the case is on vacation this week.

The Long Beach Armada has played at Blair Field since 2005 as part of the independent Golden Baseball League. It is the third semi-pro team in recent years to locate in Long Beach, and the longest lasting so far. Rather than being owned individually, teams in the Golden Baseball League all are owned by the league, providing a deeper resource pool.

The claim, filed by attorney Alexander M. Polyachenko, notes that there have been several alterations in the contract between the city and the baseball team over the last four years in an attempt to keep the team playing in Long Beach. Last year, the Armada took over concessions at Blair Field, providing service for the Long Beach State baseball games as well as their own.

According to J.C. Squires, manager of the Parks, Recreation and Marine Department’s Business Operations Bureau, the Armada had been falling behind in payments for the last year. When a $25,000 letter of credit expired, the league was told to renew it immediately, especially in light of $26,000 in unpaid bills.

“The letter of credit was supposed to be renewed in June, but it wasn’t,” Squires said. “There was a separate letter of credit to pay the Armada’s share of the new scoreboard, and the Partners of Parks (which had financed the scoreboard purchase with promises of partial repayment from the Armada and Long Beach State) had to make a call on that letter. That wasn’t involved in the decision to revoke the permit, but it did show the trend of decline the Armada was in regarding payments.”

The permit was revoked on Nov. 3. Squires said that decision came only after a direct conversation between Phil Hester, director of the Parks, Recreation and Marine Department, and Dave Kaval, CEO of the Golden Baseball League. Even so, the claim says the city did not give the league an opportunity to reinstate the letter of credit, and contends that pulling the Armada permit was a condition of the Blair Field lease between the city and the university.

“It is no secret that the city wishes to cede responsibility for maintaining Blair Field to its most important tenant, the Long Beach State ‘Dirtbags,’ a national powerhouse baseball program,” the claim says. “It is also no secret that Long Beach State does not wish to have the Armada share the facilities or control the concessions during its games. Our sources advise us that the negotiations between the city and Long Beach State are much more advanced than we have been told and that in fact a prerequisite of any deal between the city and Long Beach State was that the Armada’s permit be terminated.”

Squires denied that the Armada permit termination had anything to do with the negotiations to lease the facility to the university. Talks began between the two early last year, before the fiscal 2010 budget was prepared. The lease is figured into the 2010 expense savings in the Parks, Recreation and Marine Department budget, and maintenance was turned over to the university on Jan. 4, although the lease is still being negotiated. That lease would go to the City Council for final approval.

“The two situations are mutually exclusive,” Squires said. “The timing is coincidental… One of the conditions for leasing always has been that existing permits have to be honored. But renewals and any new permits would be up to CSULB.”

Ongoing permits include use of Blair by high school teams and some youth summer programs. Length of those permits was not available.

City Attorney Robert Shannon said that the claim will be denied, freeing the Golden Baseball League to file whatever lawsuit it wanted to file. Calls to Kaval at Golden Baseball League headquarters and Tony Soares, Armada general manager, were not returned in time for this story.