The Press Telegram's Bob Keisser wrote the following piece this evening for Saturday's paper. Very good to read some positive things about the Armada. Definitely sad there won't be baseball during the summer at Blair Field next season, but hopefully the possibility of a GBL return to Long Beach will materialize in the future.
The article from Keisser:
Long Beach Armada 2005-2009 ... for now.
KEISSER: GBL would like to see a return to Long Beach
By Bob Keisser, Sports Columnist
Posted: 02/12/2010 10:38:58 PM PST
There's the High Road, and then there's the path to Mt. Everest.
David Kaval chose the latter.
The subject was the Long Beach Armada (RIP, 2005-09), and the Golden Baseball League, and the city's decision to lease Blair Field to Long Beach State and pull the team and league's permit to use the park.
Needless to say, the team and league weren't happy about the way the situation was handled, and they and their modest legion of fans were angry when this space responded with a not-so-fond adieu.
So what did Kaval, the Stanford grad who created the league and its league-ownership model, say when we finally connected on the phone?
He said he would like to come back to Long Beach.
Seriously. He thinks Long Beach is still a good fit for an independent league team and a good fit for his league.
When the three previous minor league team ownership groups all were in the throes of death - one crumbled (Barracuda), one moved (Riptide) and one folded (Breakers) along with the league - they usually departed by pointing a finger at the city and the community, literally and figuratively.
Kaval wasn't happy with the way things ended, but he understands that in today's recessionary climate, the deal made sense for the city and Long Beach State on a lot of levels.
He even confirmed that the league once offered the city a bus as collateral, which isn't the usual compensation municipalities seek.
But he just wishes the city hadn't pushed the league aside the way they did. Or as one might say, hadn't thrown them under the bus.
That said, he'd like to come back.
"At some point, I think we will be back in Long Beach," Kaval said. "I think Blair Field is a great park and think Long Beach is a great community for baseball.
"We just feel like we had the rug pulled out from underneath us. We had two years left on a lease when they pulled the permit. We offered to write them a check right away for what we owed them, but they said not to bother."
Kaval and I agreed not to debate the quality of the baseball or concession prices. We weren't going to agree on those points. But we did agree that the basic saga comes down to business decisions.
The city is strapped and wanted to remove a $1 million-plus line item (running Blair) from the budget.
They found someone who was willing to take over operation of the field, Long Beach State, because the university wants the revenue stream that comes from concessions and rent of the park for other events. More on that later.
The Armada would have found it difficult to operate the team financially without the concession deal, which is why they pressed to have the lease honored. Kaval acknowledged that the league owed the city $50,000, half in expenses incurred and the other half in a bank line of credit (LOC) that had expired.
The city exercised the expired LOC to lease the facility. The lawyers will now get their turn at-bat to see how everything is resolved.
"We invested a lot of time and money with the Armada," Kaval said. "We prepaid our rent each year and wanted the city to honor the lease. When I offered to bring the city a check (for $25,000), they said not to bother. The message was clear that they didn't want us at any price."
The bus thing: When the bank LOC first expired, the league offered to give the city the bus as collateral. City officials preferred cash but let the Armada play on without the LOC. Until they didn't.
"I understand that this was an important deal for the city, and the city was under pressure to make a move," Kaval said. "This is a difficult financial environment right now.
"Long Beach State is in a position to do things the city couldn't with Blair. We would have liked a chance make some kind of arrangement that could have allowed us to stay, but we weren't given a chance."
The concession rights were part of the reason why Long Beach State wanted Blair, so any kind of arrangement would have been difficult.
Here's what the university can do that no minor league can:
The concession deal and right to rent the stadium provides the athletic department and university new revenue streams. The university can find ways to renovate Blair - and the 52-year-old stadium needs renovating - that others can't. A capital campaign is in the works, and 49ers A.D. Vic Cegles believes some alums will step up now that Blair is officially the school's to operate.
Once the team moves to Blair permanently, for practice as well as games, the university can consider development of the land being vacated on campus. Money (state, federal) is available for universities to build multi-use facilities for the entire student body; that's how the Pyramid was built.
There were local connections to the Armada that are regrettable with their departure. The two guys who ran the team last year were Tony Soares, who once ran the Ice Dogs, the only minor league franchise here that ever could call itself a success, and Mike Callin, who is also the Dirtbags' Director of Baseball Operations. Their efforts were under-appreciated.
Kaval also said the league is sound and not headed to bankruptcy. He said several teams are doing well and he said the travel costs for a league with franchises in Canada, Mexico and Hawaii aren't as bad as some would think.
No tougher than taking the high road. The harsh assessment here was a case of guilt by association, and they deserve that mea culpa. They also deserve notice for being the first team to keep the door ajar rather than slam it on the way out.