Thursday, March 29, 2012

Former Omaha Royals Up For Sale?

One year after leaving Omaha for Sarpy County, the former Omaha Royals are apparently up for sale with a potential buyer in negotiations. The World-Herald report says that it's unclear whether the buyer would partially buy out one of the three owners or the entire franchise.  Ivy Walls, led by Philadelphia businessman Bill Shea, has a managing 50% interest in the team.  The other half is split by Omaha businessmen Warren Buffett and Walter Scott.  The negotiations have gotten serious enough that the potential buyers have met with Sarpy County officials, who are on the hook for paying for the new stadium out in BFE southwest of Papillion.

What does this mean?  Well, even Martie Cordaro isn't talking about it.  But let's make a few observations about the franchise:
  • Attendance went up 1% last season.  That's the smallest annual increase since Ivy Walls took over control of the team...and no where near the average 20% increase that new ball parks typically generate.
  • Alan Stein, who led the Royals and pushed to build the new stadium, retired last fall.  Martie Cordaro, who's been in charge in Omaha and has built a promotion machine was named to replace him.  Would Cordaro remain with the new ownership, or would he stay with the parent organization if they sell?  Key question to think about.
What direction would the new owners take the franchise?  Same effort to promote the team?  Would they be looking to change the agreement with Sarpy County?  It doesn't sound like the new owners are thinking about moving the team, according to Sarpy County's Mark Wayne.

Is this sale because of the new ballpark?  That could be read two ways:  one, is that now that the heavy lifting of the stadium is done, the franchise is more valuable and the ownership is looking to cash in.  The other is that the meager attendance bump and lack of development around the ballpark is making the investment less valuable to the current owners.  Or is this just the natural state of affairs as business conditions evolve?

I haven't changed my opinion that the new stadium was a mistake for Sarpy County...but there's no denying that the leadership of Stein and Cordaro has revitalized the franchise.  Stein's now retired, and with new ownership a real possibility, what does that mean for Cordaro?  It's something to keep an eye on.

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