IronPigs stadium renovations could be paid for with an amusement tax on tickets

Allentown and Lehigh County would be lacking a large alternative to do one thing for their citizens and taxpayers if they simply surrender thousands and thousands of bucks to the IronPigs for stadium renovations.

The workforce desperately wishes the cash, to improve the stadium to satisfy hard new requirements set via Major League Baseball.

That offers City Council and county commissioners the leverage to hunt one thing in go back — the facility to fee an amusement tax on tickets.

That’s not unusual for gross sales of tickets to wearing and leisure venues. Philadelphia, for instance, levies a 5% amusement tax on Phillies tickets. Easton levies an admissions tax on tickets to the State Theatre and Crayola Factory. South Whitehall taxes tickets to Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom.

But it’s no longer criminal to levy an amusement tax on IronPigs tickets.

The loss of a tax has avoided the town and county from maximizing the price the IronPigs convey to the neighborhood.

The cash raised could be spent on a mess of wishes, starting from street and sewer machine maintenance to expanding psychological well being products and services to increasing regulation enforcement. And to reimburse for the stadium investment.

When Coca-Cola Park was once being constructed and the franchise was once making ready to debut in 2008, then-Mayor Ed Pawlowski sought after the town to give you the option to levy an amusement tax. He was once close down.

State Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, advised The Morning Call in 2008 that workforce homeowners would conform to a stadium rent provided that state lawmakers agreed there would be no price tag tax.

So legislators handed a regulation that prohibited the town from gathering a tax on tickets on the stadium.

Why? What’s the hurt?

The IronPigs wouldn’t lose cash. All the workforce must do is acquire the tax and go it on to the town and county, which could cut up it.

Spare me the argument about how an amusement tax would deter fanatics from attending.

Anyone who can have enough money to visit a ballgame and pay for parking, meals and beer can care for a 50-cent or buck-a-ticket tax, too.

As Allentown City Council and the Lehigh County Commissioners mull whether or not to supply stadium renovation investment, they will have to imagine this.

FILE - The IronPigs play the Rochester Red Wings at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown on July 6, 2022.

The IronPigs are in a hard place, thru no fault of their very own.

Filthy-rich Major League Baseball passed minor league franchises an unfunded mandate to renovate their stadiums on the worst imaginable time. The minor leagues didn’t play in 2020 and performed a shortened season in 2021, with smaller crowds, as a result of the pandemic.

Teams nonetheless aren’t again on their toes after dropping that earnings. Now they should spend thousands and thousands to improve stadiums in tactics that can receive advantages ballplayers however do little, if the rest, to extend gate receipts or give a boost to the sport revel in for fanatics.

MLB is bullying minor league franchises, which the league could no longer exist with out. It is threatening to tug their licenses to be affiliated with large league groups in the event that they don’t meet the brand new requirements.

Requirements for Coca-Cola Park come with a 3rd front (already finished), higher clubhouses, coaches’ workplaces, coaching rooms, weight rooms, kitchen and garage spaces for each groups and a feminine locker room.

Those upgrades firstly have been estimated to price $6 million. Inflation has higher the associated fee to about $10 million.

MLB isn’t giving groups a lot time to finish the upgrades, both. The due date is April. The league did not imagine that stadium renovations couldn’t be finished all over the season, which ended only recently.

And the worst section? MLB isn’t contributing a cent.

The league, and large league groups, will have to be serving to their minor league companions with the associated fee.

The IronPigs are an asset for the Phillies. Having the Triple-A associate a couple of hours away makes it simple to name up gamers on brief realize. It is also handy for comparing gamers.

The IronPigs are an asset for Allentown and the larger Lehigh Valley, too. The workforce merits to be handled like an asset and be invested in when vital. And that is a type of occasions.

Allentown didn’t give a contribution cash towards building of Coca-Cola Park, which value $54 million. It should assist the IronPigs now.

The workforce generates source of revenue for Allentown thru salary and trade taxes. It patronizes native companies, similar to with visiting groups staying on the Americus Hotel. It offers again to the neighborhood thru charities.

The stadium additionally generates about $4 million a yr for the town as a result of a part of the stadium belongings qualifies for a on line casino host charge, in spite of no on line casino ever being constructed. The county will get earnings, too.

The state has pitched in $2 million towards the stadium renovations. Northampton County has pitched in $200,000, from federal pandemic aid budget and the county’s tax on resort rooms.

Allentown is the IronPigs’ place of birth. It would glance silly if it refused to give a contribution when everybody round it has.

FILE - Phillies star Bryce Harper played for the IronPigs at Coca-Cola park in August 2022 during a rehab stint.

IronPigs co-owner Joe Finley made a honest and affordable request for $1.5 million to Allentown City Council’s Budget and Finance Commitee on Oct. 4.

Finley famous that once the stadium was once constructed, Allentown was once no longer requested to give a contribution investment. He stated the workforce known the truth of the town’s monetary state of affairs. But the workforce has no selection however to hunt the town’s assist now, he stated.

“We’re in a difficult position, so I’m in here tonight, hat in hand,” Finley advised the committee.

He stated the specter of the town dropping the franchise “is real.” He defined how the New York Yankees moved their Double-A workforce out of Trenton, New Jersey, as it sought after a greater facility.

“We don’t want to have the Lehigh Valley IronPigs go through that same process and lose baseball here and have a $54 million ballpark sitting there empty,” Finley stated.

Allentown City Council has been divided because it considers whether or not to approve the $1.5 million , which might come from the town’s allotment of federal pandemic aid cash.

Some council participants imagine that cash would be higher spent on different wishes similar to updating Allentown’s growing older infrastructure. Council could vote on the investment Oct. 19.

There is large fortify from the Lehigh County commissioners to give a contribution one of the crucial county’s federal pandemic aid budget. In overdue September, a committee really helpful the county supply $2.3 million and put aside some other $700,000 to give a contribution if prices upward thrust additional.

Commissioners could take a last vote on the investment Wednesday.

The stakes are upper for the county. It owns and constructed Coca-Cola Park. Construction was once paid for with state grants; a county bond factor this is being repaid with stadium hire from the workforce; and resort taxes, which have been higher via a half-percent to pay for the stadium.

The county would be in a monetary hollow if the workforce have been to depart.

In alternate for the help it wishes and merits, the IronPigs’ possession will have to drop their resistance to an amusement tax on tickets. I sought comments from the workforce however didn’t listen again from General Manager Kurt Landes.

Team homeowners and officers from Allentown and Lehigh County will have to paintings in combination to foyer state lawmakers to take away the shortsighted regulation blockading a tax.

The legislative consultation is with regards to over, with our overpaid lawmakers having best about per week of consultation days scheduled for the remainder of the yr.

Yet the Legislature turns out to be on the short monitor to ram thru a regulation to promote the previous Allentown State Hospital web site to City Center Investment Corp. There’s no reason why it may possibly’t do the similar with a invoice to assist the town and county as they assist the IronPigs get their stadium enhancements finished.

Morning Call columnist Paul Muschick can be reached at 610-820-6582 or

Leave a Comment