Fresno Offers Financial Incentives to Grizzlies

December 3, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
This proposal has been hammered out over several months. It doesn't reduce the Grizzlies rent at Chukchansi Park, but it's enough to keep them playing there. Unfortunately, the city doesn't know if it has enough money to make the deal go through.Dozens of Grizzlies' fans packed into Fresno City Hall Thursday night. Many of them expressed their support for a plan that is designed to keep the team playing in Downtown Fresno.

"I cannot even imagine the city of Fresno or our marketing department at Fresno State without the Grizzlies."

"And let's do what we can to keep baseball and keep it a good level of bases here in this city."

A consultant the city hired spent 45 minutes going over the new Grizzlies lease plan which will not change the team's 1.5 million dollar annual rent. Instead, the city will offer the team certain financial incentives. Among them, the city will reimburse the Grizzlies for 50 percent of certain operating expenses, up to $500,000 annually. The city will also invest $100,000 in a capital reserve fund for maintenance, and give all game parking revenue to the team. The Grizzlies' general manager says the team is pleased with the proposal.

Andrew Stuebner said, "And we're focused on December 17th and getting the approval for it, and we're looking forward to April 16th, 2010, that's our opening night. We're going to be playing baseball, no matter what happens."

But in light of a multi-million dollar budget shortfall and 125 layoffs, city officials warn the decision on whether to approve the plan won't be easy.

Larry Westerlund said, "It doesn't look like this will be the last time we have to lay off employees of the city in Fresno and so this decision that we will make, my colleagues and I will make two weeks hence is going to be a very difficult decision to make."

The Grizzlies still owe the city more than a million dollars in rent and other fees. They have to pay that before December 14th for this proposal to even be considered and the plan cannot be re-negotiated. Assuming the Grizzlies deliver that check, the city is expected to vote on the proposal on December 17th.


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