Sen. Blackburn Co-Sponsoring Bill To Save Minor League Baseball on “Brink of Financial Catastrophe”
CHATTANOOGA, TN (CBS News) – Senator Marsha Blackburn is co-sponsoring a bill to save minor league baseball teams impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the return of fans to stadiums in 2021, revenue across the league is expected to be down 65% from 2019, according to team owners. The Chattanooga Lookouts experienced a revenue drop of nearly 93% in 2020.
The Minor League Baseball Relief Act would offer relief to teams that were active before the pandemic and be capped at $10 million. The amount that teams receive would be based on 2019 revenue. The team also cannot be owned by a Major League Baseball team. The proposed bill would use $550 million in unspent COVID-19 relief funds from the Small Business Administration.
Senator Blackburn, U.S. Senator for Tennessee, is co-sponsoring the legislation with Senator Richard Blumenthal, Senator John Warner, and Senator Tim Kaine.
Senator Blackburn told CBS News that, “You can’t go back and get that 2020 season back. They are drivers for jobs, for tourism… this is very much a part of your local economic system in these communities.”
Lookouts managing owner Jason Freier said, “We dug a huge hole in 2020 and with ’21, I’d like to think that we were going to fill it back in. But the truth is, even this year, we’re still digging, just a little bit slower. Absent this help, it’s going to take us 8 to 10 years to get our balance sheet in the state it was back in 2019.”
Minor league games attract 40 million fans annually, according to team owners which helps surrounding businesses also. The teams help raise another $50 million a year for local charities and had nearly 35,000 full-time employees before the pandemic.
“They are on the brink of financial catastrophe,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. “If you really want to save and salvage the ballparks and the teams, we have to come to their rescue and keep them in the game. Because otherwise, we’re going to lose an essential part of the American sports dream.”