ASTROS AND SPORTS AUTHORITY CLOSE TO SIGNING 32-YEAR LEASE
The Astros and the Harris County-Houston Sports
Authority are close to signing a lease and two other
agreements on Wednesday that will make it "virtually
impossible for the Astros to leave Houston for 32 years,"
according to John Williams of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. The
deal includes "stiff penalties" should the team try to move
from the new ballpark under construction downtown. The
agreements allow the Astros to keep all revenues generated
at the ballpark in return for paying the authority $7.1M
annually for 30 years after it opens in 2000. The team can
also use it for events other than baseball. The authority
is expected to spend $9.5M annually in tax dollars to
subsidize building the park. The authority "put a strict
performance lease in the contract saying home games must be
played there" in exchange for a $3.4M annual lease payment.
The deal states that the only "way out of a performance
lease is if the franchise were to go into bankruptcy." To
get around that possibility, the authority has crafted a
license agreement allowing the Astros to keep all revenues
from naming, advertising, telecom and broadcast rights in
exchange for a $1.2M annual payment, and a nonrelocation
agreement that says the team must pay $75-250M to the
authority "if it wants to leave, depending on how much of
the lease is left" (John Williams, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 6/16).
BIG MAC HITS HOUSTON: Tickets for the Astros' first
home series against the Cardinals "were selling at a brisk
pace" as of late yesterday afternoon, and the Astros were
projecting at least 100,000 in attendance for the three-game
series that begins tonight (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 6/16).