Joplin will own and control all of the three parking lots around Joe Becker Stadium as a result of the settlement of a lawsuit between the city and the owners of the Joplin Blasters. The lots are valued at $200,000.
The city will pay $25,000 to Charter Sports LLC, a corporation involving the Suarez family and others that bought some of the land to add parking to the area before launching Blasters operations.
City officials feel it was reasonable to buy that land given the prospects for future use of the stadium.
"I think we are ready to turn the page for the next chapter of baseball," Mayor Mike Seibert said Thursday after the city announced that the lawsuit had been dismissed by mutual agreement with the principals of the Blasters and Charter Sports.
City Attorney Peter Edwards, asked in an email if the city obtained control of the parking lots in the settlement and if the value of those lots exceeded the $25,000 paid by the city, wrote that, "The city values the parking lots, 60,000 square feet plus, at approximately $200,000. As a result, the city feels that it obtained this asset substantially below market value and tied up a loose end by not having third party ownership of sections of the parking lot."
He said that $200,000 in value offsets what the city believes was $175,000 in damages sustained as a result of two seasons of losses because the full lease payments for use of the stadium by the former Joplin Blasters were not paid. Additionally, in renegotiating the lease for the second season, the city made concessions aimed at making operations more affordable for the team owners. Those included paying the stadium utilities unless attendance increased and handing over maintenance to the Blasters to save the city labor costs.
"The city will further mitigate damages above this amount by rental income it will receive for the stadium for events scheduled for this year, and income from a hopeful long-term tenant as well as other events in the years to follow," Edwards said.
A collegiate team, the Joplin Outlaws, will play there this summer, and the Joplin Sports Authority will hold a number of sports events there that will generate rent.
Another Texas baseball organization, the Pecos League, visited Joplin last year after the Blasters went defunct and expressed interest in playing in Joplin. There was not enough time to set up league play for this season, but city officials have since acknowledged that Pecos officials and some others are interested in coming to Joe Becker Stadium.
The city also said in a statement Thursday that it will save the cost of further litigating the lawsuit and that each party will bear its own costs for the work so far. The decision to settle was reached in mediation.
The parties in the lawsuit other than Charter Sports are the Joplin Blasters corporation, WLD Suarez, Pro Baseball Management, and their principals, Oscar, Gabriel and Shawn Suarez.
Judge Dean Dankelson, acting on a request of the parties, dismissed the lawsuit Thursday in Jasper County Circuit Court.
The lawsuit was filed by the city after the team owners walked away owing $15,000 on last season's $75,000 stadium lease. While the city alleged breach of contract, the Blasters owners filed a suit contending public comments by city officials about the team's management drove down game attendance, costing them money to keep the baseball team operating.
An attorney representing the city, Karl Blanchard, notified the judge in a letter Wednesday that all of the parties had agreed to dismiss their claims against each other.
The Suarezes could not be reached for comment.
On March 8, Gabriel Suarez, who had been the manager of the Blasters last season, was named field manager of the Cleburne Railroaders, a new professional baseball franchise in Cleburne, Texas.