Was the mission to bring the Shuckers to Biloxi a quest for fool's gold or will it bring golden times? Steve Wilson likes the project to a Field of Dreams gone bad over at Watchdog.org. He reports:
In the Kevin Costner baseball movie “Field of Dreams,” a mysterious voice from the cornfield told Costner’s character Ray Kinsella if you build it, he will come.
But in Biloxi they didn’t come.
The city’s hopes that fans would line up — like at the end of the movie — for its taxpayer-funded minor league baseball stadium didn’t materialize. MGM Park averaged 3,459 fans in 46 home games, 541 fans per game short of the 4,000 average envisaged by a study commissioned by the city.
The Biloxi Shuckers, the Double-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, were forced to spend the first two months of the season playing on the road as the contractor scrambled to finish the $36 million MGM Park, which didn’t open until June 6, two months behind schedule. The city, under its deal with the team, was forced to pay the Southern League $240,000 in fines for missed home games as the stadium’s completion date continued to slip.
The Shuckers even had the indignity of having to play some of their “home” games at the city they left, Huntsville, Alabama. As a result, the team’s average attendance was near the bottom of the Southern League at 2,604 fans. That’s still an improvement over the 1,460 fans per game the team drew in Huntsville in 2014.
The team didn’t return calls for comment.
The numbers pale in comparison with the opening of other new ballparks in the Double-A Southern League. In 2004, Montgomery, Alabama, opened Riverwalk Stadium and the Biscuits averaged 4,820 fans per contest. Trustmark Park opened in Pearl, Mississippi, the next year and the Mississippi Braves averaged 3,848 fans per game. Pensacola opened Bayfront Park in 2012 and 4,826 fans per game turned out to watch the Blue Wahoos. Birmingham’s team, the Barons, moved from suburban Hoover to Regions Park in downtown and 5,669 fans on average went through the turnstiles.
Both Mississippi baseball teams were lured from other cities — Greenville, S.C. (Braves) and Huntsville — with new stadium deals, financed with taxpayer dollars.
In 2013, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant announced plans to award $15 million in oil spill funds to the stadium, projected to cost $36 million. Biloxi voted to borrow $21 million in bonds to pick up the rest of the tab for the park.
Trustmark Park and the $100 million retail development surrounding the ballpark in Pearl opened in 2005 near the junction of Interstates 20 and 55. The city and Rankin County financed it with $78 million in bonds. Financing was also provided by a $7.5 million loan to Pearl for the $28 million ballpark’s construction.
Site developer Bloomfield Equities, owned by Spectrum Capital, got $8.1 million in state tax subsidies for the Bass Pro Shops across from the ballpark. Spectrum received $24 million in state tax subsidies to build its $80 million Outlets of Pearl adjacent to the ballpark.
The M-Braves drew 3,192 fans per game this year, up slightly from 3,150 in 2014. Both years, the M-Braves have been seventh in average attendance in the 12-team league. Article
Kingfish note: The city sold $21 million in bonds to build the stadium. The professional service fees for the bond transaction are:
$21,000: Mississippi Development Bank (Issuer)
$12,000: Balch & Bingham (Issuer's counsel)
$60,000: Government Consultants, Inc. (Financial advisor)
$4,000: Hancock Bank (Trustee)
$74,500: Page Mannino, Peresich, & McDermott (bond counsel)
$52,500: Butler Snow (Disclosure counsel)
$5,000: Michael Collins (City Counsel)
$16,000: S&P Rating Serrvice
$500: Spence Flatguard (State bond attorney)
The story does not state it but Shuckers' attendance would have ranked fifth in the league.