MANCHESTER, N.H. – The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the entire world and baseball is no exception, with the city set to negotiate with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats regarding a possible adjustment to the team’s Management and Operations Agreement with the city.
Over their 15 years in Manchester, the Fisher Cats have paid several hundred thousand dollars each year in leasing fees to the city for the use of Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, but the lack of baseball due to the pandemic has severely impacted the team’s revenues this year. If there is any small victory for the team, it is that their status as the Double-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays appears to be safe despite an announcement last month in Baseball America that Major League Baseball plans to withdraw its affiliation with 42 Minor League Baseball teams across the country.
The team requested to present potential changes to the agreement at the Manchester Board of Aldermen’s June 2 meeting, but not before controversy among the Aldermen on Tuesday.
Following a motion to approve the Fisher Cats’ request by Ward 1 Alderman Kevin Cavanaugh, several Aldermen questioned the role of city staff in coming to a deal with the Fisher Cats, with At-Large Alderman Joseph Kelly Levasseur requesting that the team just submit their requests directly and the city investigate whether the team has requested any assistance from Major League Baseball or received any funding from business interruption insurance.
According to Fisher Cats spokespeople on Thursday, the team has received no direct financial assistance from Major League Baseball and no insurance-related funding.
Ward 12 Alderman Keith Hirschmann voiced concerns over bond re-payments made by the city on the stadium that could be impacted by potential negotiations and Ward 8 Alderman Michael Porter also voiced concerns with any debt forgiveness given the state of the economy as a whole.
“I don’t think we should be negotiating because every other business will be coming in asking the very same thing,” said Porter. “There are a lot of other taxpayers that are hurting much more than the Fisher Cats, I have very little sympathy for the Fisher Cats. Let them come in with a proposal. There’s nothing to negotiate, either come to use with a payment plan or pay what you owe.”
Cavanaugh’s motion to accept whatever proposal comes to the board on June 2 passed by an 8-6 vote.
Cavanaugh was joined by Ward 2 Alderman Will Stewart, Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long, Ward 5 Alderman Anthony Sapienza, Ward 10 Alderman William Barry, Ward 11 Alderman Normand Gamache and At-Large Alderman Dan O’Neil.
Levasseur, Hirschmann and Porter were joined in opposition by Ward 4 Alderman Jim Roy, Ward 6 Alderman Elizabeth Moreau, and Ward 7 Alderman Ross Terrio.