Locally pro baseball returns to firm footing
Rebuilding publicly owned PNC Field was controversial - and should have been - because it evolved from bad decisions compounded by scandal during the administration of the former Lackawanna County Commissioners Bob Cordaro and A.J. Munchak.
Mr. Cordaro gave away the public's store to lure the Triple A affiliate of the New York Yankees to Lackawanna County, then he and Mr. Munchak were convicted of unrelated federal corruption charges. The lousy baseball deal, coupled with the scandal, created vast uncertainty about the future of professional baseball in Northeast Pennsylvania and contributed, along with the Great Recession, to plummeting attendance and the prospect of a lost franchise.
In 2011, attendance plummeted to 298,098, by far the lowest total since the stadium's opening in 1989, and less than half of the total from the franchise's record attendance year, 2007, when the Yankees' Triple A team first arrived to replace the Philadelphia Phillies' Triple A team.
With 16 home games remaining this season, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders already have eclipsed the 2011 attendance figure; 321,781 fans have attended games 52 games (there were no home games in 2012 to accommodate stadium reconstruction).
Part of the resurgence undoubtedly is due to the novelty of a mostly new stadium. But a big part also is due to new management and aggressive marketing effort by SWB Yankees LLC, the consortium of Mandalay Baseball Properties and the New York Yankees that bought the International League franchise from Lackawanna County.
County Commissioners Corey O'Brien and Jim Wansacz and SWB Yankees deserve credit for working together to salvage the disastrous deal concocted by Mr. Cordaro. Doing so created the fine new stadium, under a structure that ensures that its $43.3 million cost will be paid over time primarily from baseball proceeds.
SWB Yankees agreed to significant concessions from a deal that had given it all of the cards; the county put proceeds from the franchise sale into the stadium project.
Fan response so far validates the tough negotiations and decisions by both parties and indicates that high-level professional baseball in Northeast Pennsylvania has returned to a firm footing.