Half a billion dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds could soon be heading to minor league baseball teams as a bipartisan bill makes its way through the U.S. Senate. However, the Oklahoma City Dodgers could be left out.
The current draft of the Minor League Baseball Relief Act would exclude teams like the OKC Dodgers, because they are, in part, owned by a major-league team, the LA Dodgers.
However, the Oklahoma City organization president and general manager said the punch to the pocketbook has been all the same.
“In my 19th year in minor league baseball, we’re facing things that no one has faced before,” OKC Dodgers President and General Manager Michael Byrnes said.
Flashback to 2020. The hot dogs, beer and merchandise were ordered, season tickets were sold and advertising agreements were inked.
“All of that was already in the pipeline or had already been delivered,” he said. “We faced all of the expense but then didn’t get the chance to generate the revenue. So, it was really a challenging scenario for the franchise.”
On June 30, 2020, the entire season was canceled striking out revenue from 70 scheduled home games.
“An NBA team or a major league baseball team, they were able to play in front of empty stadiums because they have these incredible media rights, and that’s just not the same case at the minor league level. It’s about opening the gates and getting people into the building,” Byrnes said.
The bipartisan plan being discussed in Washington would send $550 million of unspent COVID-19 relief funds to minor league teams, but only those without major league owners.
“The (LA) Dodgers are 50% owners, but we are a complete separate entity,” Byrnes said. “All the decisions were really centered around our entity unique from all the others and we faced the challenges that every business did in terms of inability to fully operate.”
The general manager said the OKC organization is still feeling the financial fallout from missing an entire season.
“While we are operating and fans are coming out, we are operating with many fewer people,” Byrnes said. “I think it’ll take a number of years for us to really be back to the staffing levels that we to be able to justify that from a revenue standpoint.”
He said the federal relief would be a game changer if made available to all minor league teams.
“It would let us put the past really behind us and that would be really important,” Byrnes said.