A unique set of circumstances resulted in the city of Auburn taking ownership of the Auburn Doubledays Minor League Baseball club more than 30 years ago. In essence, it was a way to keep the team, a beloved community institution, in Auburn.
And for much of the past three-plus decades, the ownership structure worked well and indeed helped preserve professional baseball in this small market.
But the combination of increased financial pressures for the city and a declining demand for minor league baseball has put the city in a difficult position in recent years. Most notably, it's been forced to put taxpayer resources into the baseball club to sustain operations by helping pay off debts.
With that in mind, an effort to extract the city of Auburn from the baseball franchise ownership business makes common and fiscal sense. And that's what city officials are now trying to do.
The goal is to find a new owner who will keep the team in the city. In the meantime, the city is looking to make some legal changes to the ownership structure by forming a limited liability corporation that will assume control of the franchise. Such a move may help shield taxpayers from potential debt issues involving the team, and it also may facilitate an outright sale should the right buyer come along.
While we understand this move and share the hope that it can help lead to a brighter and more stable future for the team, we also caution city officials to continue to keep close tabs on the Doubledays operation and also be forthright with the public as developments unfold. A city-owned LLC should still be subject to the same level of transparency as any other entity.
That means the public should still be able to see how the team is doing financially.
It means the city should be keeping taxpayers informed about the status of the $80,000 line of credit given to the franchise earlier this year.
And it means Auburn city councilors should have open discussions about how they envision using any proceeds of a sale of the team, and involve the community in the process of choosing the best course of action when the time comes to make such a decision.