City officials say that the possible strikeout of the Watertown Wizards is not their fault.
Our Craig Fox reports:
City officials are crying foul that team owner Paul A. Simmons are blaming them for the pending sale of the Watertown Wizards.
At Tuesday night's game, Mr. Simmons announced to the crowd that this was going to be his last season as the owner and was putting the summer collegiate baseball team up for sale. He blamed haggling with city officials this season on a variety of issues.
Five unidentified local people and a group from the Albany area have expressed interest in buying the team, he said. He hopes to have the team sold by Oct. 1.
But Councilwoman Teresa R. Macaluso said she wasn't surprised with the announcement — Mr. Simmons told her before the season began that he planned to sell the team.
“I was a little surprised that the announcement made it over the heat with the city,” she said, adding that she assumed when he told her this spring that he just thought it was time to get out of baseball.
On Wednesday, Mr. Simmons, a former city councilman, told the Times that he just got tired of dealing with the city, and he made the decision after the Watertown City Council took the exclusive rights from him to handle the beer concessions for all events at the city-owned Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. He said that beer sales were always done the same way since the city had minor league baseball teams with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cleveland Indians through the 1998 season.
“It's just not fun anymore,” he said, adding that he could never rely on getting help from the city in the 11 years he's owned the Wizards. “It's been extremely hard to negotiate anything at all with the city.”
In June, council members divided out the concession sales for baseball games and the big-name summer concerts that are held at the fairgrounds. Since then, council members have awarded “franchise agreements” on individual concerts rather than for the entire summer season.
In May, the team was given a contract extension to play at the fairgrounds, but it didn't include the beer concession sales. Last week, Mr. Simmons, a partner in the Watertown-based concert promoter, AMP Entertainment, voiced frustration about the city dragging its feet on approving an Aug. 20 Godsmack concert at the fairgrounds. AMP ended up moving the concert with the heavy metal band to the CanAm Speedway in Lefargeville.
On Wednesday, Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns denied that the city had done anything to “take baseball away from Watertown as some critics have stated,” adding that she would like the team to stay in Watertown and play at the fairgrounds.
“If Mr. Simmons and the Wizards are truly about baseball, nothing has changed,” she said. “If the Wizards are about making money at concerts, that has nothing to do with baseball.”