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AG opinions: Biloxi can't sell naming rights to ball field

Proposed Biloxi minor league baseball stadium (Courtesy of Dale Partners)

Proposed Biloxi minor league baseball stadium (Courtesy of Dale Partners)

BILOXI — A Mississippi attorney general’s office opinion has derailed an agreement between Biloxi and the Shuckers minor league baseball team to sell the naming rights for MGM Park’s playing field.

The agreement had called for the city to earn an extra $50,000 a year to help repay the construction bond for the stadium.

The attorney general’s opinion reads, in part, that “… a state agency may not change the name of a state sponsored event to include the name of a private commercial venture.”

That opinion was issued twice earlier — when the DeSoto County Convention and Visitors Bureau wanted to lease the naming rights to its coliseum complex and when organizers of the Dixie National Livestock Show and Rodeo wanted to include a sponsor in the name of the event.

The Sun Herald reports Tim Bennett, owner of Overtime Sports and part owner of the Shuckers, is offering an alternative.

“It’s a fairly simple fix,” Bennett said. “It’s legal for me to pay the city from revenues generated off the video board.”

Under the contract between the city and the team, Biloxi is required to supply a video board at the stadium.

The large board in right center field will be one of the largest in the league, Bennett said, and the smaller video board in left field will display advertising.

Bennett is now proposing the city receive $100,000 in ad revenue each year from the smaller board in exchange for paying for the installation. That totals $2 million over 20 years.

In December, the City Council voted unanimously to pay the cost to install two video boards at MGM Park but hasn’t yet gone to bid. The stadium is expected to open in a few months.

Bennett said he will keep working to help Biloxi pay the debt on the stadium.

“It continues to be a cooperative effort between me and the city,” he said.

 

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