Sens. Warner, Kaine ready to ‘go to bat’ for Virginia’s Minor League Baseball teams

Virginia Politics

WASHINGTON (WFXR) – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) stepped up to the plate on Thursday through the introduction of the Minor League Baseball Relief Act to help Virginia’s nine Minor League Baseball (MiLB) teams struggling financially after the pandemic threw a curveball into their 2020 season.

“For many working families, catching a weekend Minor League Baseball game at stadiums across the Commonwealth is an affordable and fun family outing,” said Warner in a statement shared by his office on Thursday, June 24. “Baseball isn’t just America’s pastime, it also represents an economic lifeline for many communities. However, like many small businesses throughout the COVID-19 crisis, our Minor League Baseball teams in Virginia and across the country have struggled mightily to keep the lights on. Since there was no Minor League Baseball season in 2020 due to the pandemic, many of these teams have sustained heavy financial losses that have not been substantially mitigated by existing small business economic relief programs. I’m pleased to work with my colleagues on this bill that would allow these local treasures access to economic relief.”

According to officials, the Minor League Baseball Relief Act would provide up to $550 million in federal relief funding for MiLB teams, which serve as important economic engines for communities since baseball fans attend games and end up patronizing local restaurants, hotels, and other attractions.

Warner and Kaine introduced the bill alongside Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). In addition, “heavy hitters” Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and David McKinley (R-WV) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“Baseball is not only America’s favorite pastime, bringing friends and families together; it’s also a critical economic engine for the Commonwealth,” said Kaine. “Teams in communities across Virginia support our local economy and create jobs. The pandemic has taken a toll on this beloved sport, and I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to help MiLB teams through this economic crisis.”

According to the statement shared by Warner’s office, “the bases are loaded in Virginia,” with the following nine Minor League Baseball teams in the Commonwealth eligible for financial relief under the Minor League Baseball Relief Act:

  • Bluefield Ridge Runners (formerly Blue Jays)
  • Bristol State Liners (formerly Pirates)
  • Danville Otterbots (formerly Braves)
  • Fredericksburg Nationals (formerly Potomac)
  • Lynchburg Hillcats
  • Norfolk Tides
  • Pulaski River Turtles (formerly Yankees)
  • Richmond Flying Squirrels
  • Salem Red Sox

Officials say the Minor League Baseball Relief Act would be modeled after the successful Shuttered Venue Operator Grants (SVOG) program, which has provided needed assistance to venues like theatres, museums, or concert halls that were forced to shut due to necessary COVID-19 safety measures.

More specifically, Thursday’s statement says the Minor League Baseball Relief Act would:

  • Repurpose up to $550 million in COVID-19 relief funding for an emergency grant program to be administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) that would otherwise be returned to the U.S. Treasury.
  • Provide eligible clubs grants up to a maximum of $10 million, with payroll costs, regular business expenses (e.g., rent, utilities), worker protection expenditures, and payments made to independent contractors included among the allowable expenses.
  • Provide an opportunity for a second grant at 50 percent of the first if a club’s revenue does not recover and does not significantly exceed its 2019 total.
  • Require strict oversight from SBA through documentation, review of use, and an audit on grant funding, and applies to any minor league baseball team previously part of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues but not to any club that is majority-owned by Major League Baseball.

You can read a copy of the bill here.

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