Tuesday, July 26, 2016

KOAM report: Joplin officials concerned Blasters about to skip town

For those who are looking for some actual investigative reporting on what is going on in this area, the choices are limited.

One reporter who has consistently provided investigative reporting has been KOAM's Jordan Aubey.

One example of that above-and-beyond reporting was the coverage of the departure of master developer Wallace Bajjali from Joplin. Aubey's digging dwarfed what was done by the area's newspaper of record, which seemed to do everything it could to avoid connecting the Texas firm with some of our leading citizens.

Aubey and KOAM were back at it again Monday with an investigative report on the cloudy future of the Joplin Blasters.

Using e-mails obtained from the City of Joplin through a Sunshine Law request, Aubey was able to reveal to viewers that city officials are concerned that this may be the last year the Blasters will be in Joplin.

The report also shows city officials are unhappy with the way the Blasters are taking care of Joe Becker Stadium. The tone of the e-mails, though Aubey does not say so, certainly make it look like Blasters officials are trying to provoke the city and put themselves into a position to skip town when the season is over.

The e-mails note that the Blasters have been getting rid of some of their best players and getting little in return.


Anonymous said...

Honestly, the Blasters style of baseball is not much better then the quality of the Outlaws. Yes, it is somewhat better because they have 35+ year old MLB retreads, but, again, there is a reason that those players are there. Secondly, the city and the Blasters can sit there and blame this and blame that. But here is the real issue. The lease terms are not realistic. You have a former CBL Mall Administrative Employee on the city counsel. I believe she also has a family member currently working for the mall and should have dismissed herself from any vote regarding approving the mall sales tax (conflict of interest). I also believe that because of this, they have the same philosophy as the mall had. They would rather have an empty stadium, and the city taking care of all of the mowing issues, and field maintenance, then develop a lease plan that is viable for a small market like Joplin to have a little better quality of baseball team. Also figure, on a week night, even the AA Springfield Cardinals struggle to draw 2000-3500 fans to their stadium and that is A LOT better quality of baseball at the AA level. So you would have to realistically figure, if a team with the Blasters quality of talent, and NO LOCAL talent, is only drawing 500-750 and maybe a 1000 on a good night, then what is a realistic lease City of Joplin? You want to make money, but again, this is a business, and you have to help small local businesses succeed because you are so to be stuck with that price tag because you, City of Joplin, have followed the CBL Mall theory of having an empty space is better then having and helping a small/local business succeed and the space being full. So the fault lies within both parties, but ultimately shame on the City of Joplin for not coming up with a realistic lease(see comment about former CBL employee). And if they think someone else is going to come in and pay that amount of money, they are just fooling themselves, because, they, like the Blasters will also be gone.
You have to figure on an average attendance of 500 people (and that may be a reach), no more, no less to pay the bills.
The Blasters pay their players, but their players, most of them live with local residents, then they trade their decent players get nothing in return because they cannot afford it. The City of Joplin says it is a baseball town, it is not. It has baseball fans, but honestly, if I want to see good baseball, I will drive to Springfield, Rogers, Tulsa, KC or St. Louis to see good baseball. Blasters baseball, as I said in a post when they were coming to town, is NOT a good quality of baseball, it is marginally above the Outlaws. This is a sad situation and a black eye for the City of Joplin.

Anonymous said...

The Joplin Globe should be embarrassed on getting scooped by the local TV station. But the Globe is content to run play-by-play game stories on the Blasters and Outlaws, which appeal only to the most hard-core sports fan. Why not do a story about the ridiculous turnover in players by the Blasters? The team releases, signs and trades players on almost a daily basis. As a result, the fans have no idea who's on the team and cannot develop any rapport with the players.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe anyone really thought that the Blasters would return after the 2016 season. In fact, I suspect that most informed members of the community believe that they will not finish out the 2016 season. The financial position of the Team which was presented to the City as part of the renegotiation discussion for the 2016 season clearly indicated that they could not sustain the cost of operations even with the renegotiated terms.

I believe our City staff, including the City Manager, are doing their best to minimize the eventual fallout and should not be held responsible for the terrible decisions made by former City Manager Rohr and others that were responsible for putting the City in this no-win situation. The best they can do now is to continue to minimize the impact on the community and the taxpayers and begin looking at alternatives for a future that does not include the Blasters.

I hope that in the future our elected City officials and city administrators will do a better job of vetting these types of projects and be more fiscally responsible when it comes to the use of our taxes. This project was not fiscally sound when it was presented, was not based on a valid feasibility study, and was not allowed enough input from the community and those who had a much better understanding of sports as a business. "Build it and they will come" does not work for many projects that municipalities want to get involved in which ultimately leads to abuse and misappropriation of public funds to cover the costs associate with these projects. Just remember that when the next project comes down the line. No matter how much lipstick you put on a pig....its still just a pig.

Anonymous said...

With these subsidy scams the public would be better served if the smart poohbahs would just put the money in a pile and light it on fire.

Anonymous said...

So consider the stadium a write off and cut deals with the Outlaws and local schools to allow them to use the stadium so it is not a total loss.

Anonymous said...

Lol....that is nothing compared to the new library scam!!!

Steve Holmes said...

10:41, you're right. Make the best of a bad situation. Without the Blasters, Joplin will be in a prime position to bid for more tournaments like Premier Baseball. It's a good facility for that purpose, though tournaments won't fill the 40 dates per summer the Blasters do.

7:50, yeah, some of us who have followed minor-league ball in a lot of places for a lot of years have made a hobby of speculating about the Blasters' chances of finishing the season without help from the league. None of the local sports observers I respect believes the Blasters will be here next year. There are worrying signs they won't finish this year, though the owner may have enough pride, and just enough cash, to make it.

Jordan, if the team goes belly-up, I hope you'll ask all the City Council members, current and former, who voted for the stadium renovation what made them think the Blasters could succeed in such a small market without a lot of disposable income.

Anonymous said...

A long list of names are responsible for this mess.

It started with Mark Rohr who ordered the parks and recreation director Chris Cotten to find an anchor tenant to Becker. Cotten went so far as to say either he had to find a tenant or the second option was the bulldozer.

Cotten sold a bill of goods to council going so far as comparing independent league baseball as equivalent to AA. He later admitted knowing nothing about baseball, just doing was he was told to do by his boss Rohr.

The debacle that is the 2016 Blasters is a combination of bad decisions made by the city finance director (who conspired behind the scenes to push through a bad agreement), the city attorney (who provided bad counsel to the city council) and the Mayor who wanted to push through an agreement and get the team back regardless. Only Bill Scearce had the backbone to stand up and oppose a new lease for 2016. The city manager and current parks director did not recommend to renew the agreement, but council would not consider their recommendations. Someone needs to do an open records request between Suarez, city finance and city attorney and see what those conversations yield. Perhaps emails from the mayor too.

The Blasters are to blame also. With them, it has been one poor excuse after another. From failing to pay players, failing to properly take care of its stadium, failing to honor commitments to vendors and partner organizations. The Suarez family has proven to be a failure at baseball ownership and it has been a bad deal for the entire city and region. They need to go away and I truly hope professional baseball does not return to Joplin because of them.