National Anthem

Spectators put hands over hearts  during the Billings Mustangs vs. Ogden Raptors game at Dehler Park in this August 2016 file photo. The Mustangs home since 2008, Dehler was voted the best rookie-level baseball park in the United States by Ballpark Digest. 

A four-member committee of the Billings City Council decided Tuesday to reduce the amount the city is seeking for naming rights revenue for Dehler Park.

The committee was to have met with Billings Mustangs owner Dave Heller Tuesday afternoon, but weather conditions in Minneapolis canceled his flight.

Heller is the managing partner of Main Street Baseball, which owns the Mustangs and other minor league clubs, including the Quad City River Bandits in Davenport, Iowa.

The committee — council members Shaun Brown, Dick Clark, Larry Brewster and Chris Friedel — decided to ask the Mustangs for 20 percent of the revenue for all naming rights. Those rights include the name of the ballpark itself, which comes back into play in 2032, and for naming rights that will be available later this year, such as for the scoreboard.

In exchange, Brown said the committee “wants to make it clear that if we give up (a higher percentage demand for) the naming rights, they’re responsible for improvements” that Main Street Baseball has said it intends to make. Those improvements include constructing a 3,000-square-foot great room above the concession stands beyond the third-base line for non-baseball, year-round events, and installing a children’s play area and temporary zip line in left field.

Permanent improvements, such as the proposed Great Room, become the property of the city once they’re installed.

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Should the Mustangs decide to upgrade the video portion of the scoreboard, the project must be approved by a facility review committee, which includes ballclub and city representation, and ultimately by the city council. Under the proposal, the facility review committee has until Jan. 1, 2020, to evaluate the ballclub’s proposed video screen upgrade and recommend action to the city council.

Just how much money naming rights may be worth and the percentage of those rights that the city should receive were issues with which the city council wrestled during four business meetings stretching out over two months.

But on Tuesday, the committee’s conversation shifted to how best to care for the city-owned ballpark during the 10-year life of the new agreement, which is still being negotiated. Committee members said they’re concerned that as Dehler Park ages and the Mustangs add amenities, maintenance costs will rise.

The ballpark's maintenance fund now holds about $470,000, said Parks and Recreation Director Michael Whitaker. While the Dehler Park turf has now lasted through its expected life cycle, “the field is still in great shape,” Whitaker told the committee. “They’ve done a great job over the years. We feel that we can get several more years” out of the existing turf, Whitaker added.

Under the proposed contract, the Mustangs’ annual rent will be doubled, from $30,000 to $60,000. The money will be placed in a fund reserved for major repairs and capital improvements.

City Administrator Tina Volek said she will contact Heller with the committee’s most recent offer and update committee members on the club’s response.

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City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.