Minor Leagues Shut Out Of Targeted Relief In American Rescue Plan
Over the last 12 months, minor league baseball teams have consistently made the argument that few industries have been more adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic than the minor leagues.
That argument has yet to receive much receptivity from Washington, D.C. While restaurants, live concert venues and other adversely-impacted industries have received specially-targeted relief in the various coronavirus relief packages, the minor leagues were once again shut out of targeted relief in the new $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that was signed into law last week.
Some aspects of the various relief packages may still end up helping minor league teams, and the second wave of the Payroll Protection Plan will help teams with their payroll.
But a bipartisan bill that would have provided targeted relief aimed specifically at helping minor league baseball teams did not make it into the American Rescue Plan law. That’s rough news for many minor league teams that have not had significant revenue in nearly 18 months.
Under the bill that did not advance, minor league teams that lost 75% or more in gross revenue in 2020 would have been eligible for a grant for up to 45% of gross revenue from 2019.
As multiple minor league owners have noted, the coronavirus pandemic could not have been more ill-timed for minor league operators. All affiliated minor league teams spent the normal amount during the 2019-2020 offseason in preparation for the upcoming season. The arrival of the pandemic and the shutdown around the minors in mid March of last year meant that teams suddenly saw their seasons postponed and eventually canceled just weeks before they were set to begin.
The 2020 season getting canceled meant that teams that had been expecting to bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue instead found themselves without any games. Many teams creatively figured out ways to use their ballparks, but the revenue from most of those small, socially distanced events cannot compare to what a team makes on a day when thousands of fans come through the turnstiles for a game.
Minor league baseball is set to return in May 2021, but multiple operators say this year will be a difficult one financially.
Teams have a lot of make-goods for season tickets and sponsorships they sold for the 2020 season—generally income that was spent to keep teams functioning over the past 12 months, but that will now not be available to help fund operations in 2021. Many teams expect to operate under reduced capacities in 2021 while having extra expenses because of the ongoing pandemic.
The hope is that by the 2022 season, operations will begin to return to normal, but numerous owners say that it will be several years before teams fully dig out from the economic effects of the pandemic.