- Associated Press - Monday, December 5, 2016

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) - The city of Biloxi is suing its minor league baseball team, saying the team and stadium operator are underpaying on their rent and aren’t providing enough records for the city to determine the proper rent.

Biloxi on Monday sued Biloxi Baseball LLC - which owns the Biloxi Shuckers - and Overtime Sports Management Biloxi - which runs the 6,000-seat MGM Park.

In the Harrison County Chancery Court suit, the city demands certified monthly reports of ticket sales and revenues, and also demands at least $53,000 in back rent.

“I can’t comment on the specifics because of the legal ramifications,” Tim Bennett, CEO of Overtime Sports, told WLOX-TV (https://bit.ly/2gZnN1m). “Overtime Sports is making every effort to provide information to the City of Biloxi.”

The city borrowed $21 million and the state provided $15 million from BP oil spill damages to build MGM Park for the Shuckers, a Milwaukee Brewers affiliate in the AA Southern League. Biloxi is making $1.65 million-a-year stadium debt payments through 2034, and the lease with the Shuckers runs through at least 2035.

“It’s a very long-term lease,” said Biloxi City Attorney Peter Abide. “We’re at a good point to start laying out our expectations.”

The lease calls for the team to pay $150,000 in rent per year, plus surcharges on some ticket sales and a share of advertising revenue from the video scoreboard.

The lawsuit says the team deducted $153,550 from its rent because stadium construction ran late in 2015, but the city contends an agreement between the city and team called for a maximum reduction of $100,000. Abide said the reduction may be even less, because the city contends the stadium may have been ready sooner.

Biloxi also says Overtime has failed to make guaranteed payments of at least $50,000 a year from scoreboard advertising, and pay the utilities for the board. The city waived surcharges on 231,000 minor league baseball tickets in 2015 and 2016 to help pay for the board, but Biloxi says it never waived surcharges for other events. It alleges the team has paid only $1,536 in surcharges on 23,825 tickets to other events.

The city is also supposed to collect rebate payments from the state on stadium sales taxes. But Biloxi says it can only document $16.5 million that the team has invested, not the $20 million agreed, which means the city could collect less in rebates over time.

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Information from: WLOX-TV, https://www.wlox.com


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