According to Pacific Coast League president Branch Rickey III, the sale of the Fresno Grizzlies is in "extra innings."
In other words, it's far enough down the road that it could end rather quickly, or it could take a little longer than expected. Plenty of progress has been made, but there are still hurdles remaining to be cleared.
"There are times when you think you've got a whisker's difference between the offer and the acceptance," Rickey said, "but the deal doesn't close. ... I would say that I've been very, very impressed with the character of the negotiations. They are being carried on in earnest, with good faith and good intentions. As to whether it will culminate in a successful sale, I don't think it's possible to (definitively) conclude that at this time."
Though the anonymous group of investors attempting to buy the Grizzlies has ties to the Colorado Rockies, a successful purchase would not necessarily mean that the Grizzlies would change affiliations from the Astros to the Rockies.
For example, Peter Freund, a Yankees minority owner, also owns the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters (Phillies) and the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals), yet neither of those clubs will change their affiliations any time soon.
"There is no connectivity. There is zero connectivity between the affiliation and the sale," Rickey said. "There would be absolutely no pressure from the deal itself causing that to change."
Fresno's local ABC affiliate first reported the headway made on the sale, which has been rumored for years.
“We are negotiating with a new buyer, they are doing their due diligence, so, we are hopefully close,” Fresno city manager Bruce Rudd told KFSN-TV in Fresno, “but again, it isn’t done until it’s done.”
Currently, the Grizzlies pay $750,000 per year to play at Chukchansi Park, and have averaged more than 6,000 fans per game over the past three seasons. That figure puts them toward the middle of the pack in the Pacific Coast League.
No matter who buys the team, negotiations will include how much each party is responsible for when it comes to stadium maintenance. Chukchansi Park, which cost $46.1 million to build in 2002, is slated to receive $1.6 million for repairs to the stadium in this year’s budget. Additionally, $1,810,500 was transferred from the city’s general fund to work toward the stadium’s debt and $1.5 million for reimbursement of capital and operating expenses.
The Grizzlies are owned by Fresno Baseball Club LLC.