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Chiefs GM: Clause to purchase stadium 'just an option'

— The Onondaga County Legislature voted unanimously to approve the Syracuse Chiefs’ new 11-year lease to remain in Alliance Bank Stadium on Tuesday.

The 17-0 vote will allow the Chiefs, an AAA baseball club affiliated with the Washington Nationals, to remain at the stadium until the lease expires on Dec. 31, 2022. The lease includes an option to purchase the stadium for $2.8 million, but General Manager John Simone said that’s a thought and definitely not close to reality right now.

“[The clause] is just an option,” Simone said in a phone interview. “It allows us to do due diligence and find out if buying the stadium is the right choice. We can have time to get our numbers together.”

Built in 1997, the stadium had a total cost of $28 million. If the current price of $2.8 million seems low, the breakdown will help explain why. Of the original $28 million, the team paid $7.8 million, while Alliance Bank paid $3.6 million for naming rights. Among other investors were the Toronto Blue Jays, who put in $1 million. Therefore, the cost to the county is far less than the original price tag.

The lease extension shifts the nearly $500,000 yearly maintenance cost from the county to the team.

Simone said the organization has some changes in mind to keep pace with the rest of the International League, which boasts teams in cities like Indianapolis and Rochester.

“After the 15-year lease was up, we signed another 11-year, and we want to make the improvements we haven’t made in those 15 years,” Simone said.

There will be a new scoreboard, a new concession company and a re-done picnic and patio area, he said.

“We wanted to put in some new amenities for the fans, because with the new lease, we’re having baseball in Syracuse for another 11 years,” Simone added. “This isn’t a huge city, and we’re very fortunate to continue to have the level of baseball we have.”

The Chiefs will pay $126,000 for use of the stadium this year, with a 2-percent increase each of the following 10 years. In 2022, the payment will be $153,576.

Simone explained the decision for the lease while trying to downplay the talk of purchasing the park.

“Remember, our goal wasn’t to buy the place, it was just to get another lease,” he said. “We got the lease and now we can decide what to do from here.”

Neil Benjamin Jr. can be reached at nbenjamin@eaglenewsonline.com.

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