Though the primary message was not surprising, there was still significance in an announcement made by Rochester Community Baseball (RCB) this week. CEO Naomi Silver told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that her organization will be back to operate the Batavia Muckdogs in 2012.
There was one important caveat, however. Silver’s pledge would only be binding if the St. Louis Cardinals’ New York-Penn League affiliate is not sold in the interim. While the money-losing Muckdogs have been on the market for over a year, it does not appear a sale is imminent.
The story is a bit different than it was back in January. At that time, RCB chairman Gary Larder told uneasy shareholders at the organization’s annual meeting that he expected 2011 to be their last season operating the Muckdogs. His view was that the team would change hands this year. Obviously, that has not happened.
Through 2008-10, their first three years operating the Muckdogs, RCB, owners of the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings, lost just under a half-million dollars in total. They have cut the deficit each successive season, and expect to have done so again this year. 2011 financial results have not yet been disclosed.
While the Muckdogs’ expenses may be under control, their revenues most likely aren’t growing substantially, if at all. Batavia held onto its unenviable position as the poorest-attended club in the 14-team league in 2011. Average attendance per game did increase very marginally this year, from 1,016 in 2010 to 1,057.
On the other side of the ledger, RCB’s nest egg continues to grow as the Muckdogs’ owners, the Genesee County Baseball Club, cedes equity each year to delay the inevitable loss of their team. RCB has gained five percent ownership of the Batavia franchise each season. Based on an estimated $6 million value of the Muckdogs, RCB’s potential return will grow to $1.5 million by the completion of the 2012 season.
The Cardinals’ Player Development Contract with Batavia is in place through next season as well, so barring a late sale to a buyer with a ready and waiting facility, it appears the Muckdogs may have dodged the executioner for one more year.