fbpx
Published in Economic Development
Whitecaps pursue public, private support to make up for lost season COURTESY PHOTO

Whitecaps pursue public, private support to make up for lost season

BY Sunday, December 06, 2020 05:15pm

COMSTOCK PARK — While cautiously optimistic about the 2021 season, West Michigan Whitecaps CEO Joe Chamberlin and his front office must still contend with the giant deficit left when Minor League Baseball shut down the entire 2020 season because of COVID-19.

From alternative programming at Fifth Third Ballpark, which the organization privately owns, to an infusion of cash from partners and original investors in the team, the organization is looking to find solid financial ground to get to 2021.

“In this year, our revenue will have declined by about 90 percent,” Chamberlin told MiBiz. “We’re a small business, we’re a seasonal business, and we’re a severely impacted business. So, since this pandemic started impacting our operation, we’ve been chasing every option available to us.”

While programming at the ballpark has generated some revenue, it’s not nearly enough to address the shortfall. Like most small businesses, Chamberlin said the Whitecaps have received or continue to pursue government funding.

Whitecaps Professional Baseball Corp. received an $834,600 Paycheck Protection Program loan on April 28, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Chamberlain also mentioned the federal RESTART Act for small businesses and the Save Our Stages Act for entertainment venues as two pieces of legislation that, if passed, the organization could leverage. Whitecaps officials have also pushed for state legislation that would defer property tax payments for businesses that have been shut down during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Whitecaps have leveraged the partners and investors that helped bring the team to Grand Rapids 27 years ago and construct the stadium without tax dollars. The team created Whitecaps Bridge Fund LLC to help sustain the organization into the next year. 

RDV Sports Inc., originally established by Richard DeVos to purchase the NBA’s Orlando Magic, contributed between $100,001 and $250,000 in September for an interest in the bridge fund. The transaction was detailed in recent financial disclosures filed by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

“We’ve had an incredible group of stakeholders and investors who brought the team here and bought the stadium back in 1994 and they’ve been a part of our ability to withstand 2020 and build a bridge into 2021,” Chamberlain said.

“Just like any business, when you’re going through a year like 2020, you sometimes look to ownership and have to ask for some help, and we were no different.”

Read 1166 times Last modified on Thursday, 10 December 2020 08:35
SUBSCRIBE TO MIBIZ TODAY FOR WEST MICHIGAN’S FINEST BUSINESS NEWS REPORTING >