By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Play ball, for a bit longer.
After several executive sessions to discuss the matter, members of the Keizer City Council unanimously agreed Monday to extend the ground lease with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.
City staff has been working with Jerry Walker, owner and president of the Keizer-based minor league baseball team, on terms for an extension of the ground lease on the property behind the Target in Keizer Station and near Interstate 5 where Volcanoes Stadium is situated. The original lease was signed in January 1997, the year Walker, along with wife Lisa, brought the baseball team to town.
By the original lease, the Volcanoes weren’t going to be leaving anytime soon, since the lease had an expiration date of Jan. 6, 2026. That’s even more the case now, since the first amendment to the lease states the lease now expires on Jan. 6, 2036.
“There’s also a possible eight-year extension after that,” city attorney Shannon Johnson said Monday evening. “We have been working with the Walkers for several months.”
The revised agreement calls for rent from ticket sales to be increased from 5 to 5.5 percent in 2026. In 2031, that rent increases to 6 percent. Meanwhile, the current 20 percent rent for parking lot fees will remain the same.
The lease amendment also included some changes for community events. For example, by Feb. 15 each year, the Walkers are to let the city know what days they’ll be using the stadium and parking lot from April 1 through the next 12 months. Within 30 days, city officials are to submit a list of requested community events at the stadium and parking lot to the Walkers.
Any events in the stadium or parking lot needing concessions prior to Oct. 31, 2017 will be required to use the Walker’s concession vendor, but for any events in the parking lot after that date a different vendor can be chosen.
Johnson noted the Walkers are getting a $2.25 million loan from Key Bank.
“We are just consenting to the loan,” Johnson said. “There is no liability on the city’s part.”
Councilor Amy Ryan appreciated the work put in over the last several months.
“On behalf of myself, I want to reiterate how much I appreciate the details being worked on,” Ryan said. “We also took care to do what’s best for the city.”
Mayor Cathy Clark nodded in agreement.
“I concur with that,” Clark said. “I also thank staff for the work put into this.”
Councilor Dennis Koho, who was mayor when the Volcanoes first came to town, pointed to what the owners of Salem-Keizer Sports Enterprises have done.
“I want to thank the Volcanoes for the $1 million they have contributed to the city these last 19 or 20 years,” Koho said. “It’s been a good partnership, I think.”
Clark went a step further.
“Indeed, it has certainly raised our stature,” she said.
The Volcanoes are the Northwest League Class A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, the team that has won the World Series three of the past six years. The Walkers recently announced they have started a new West Coast League team, the Gresham Grey Wolves. Neither of the Walkers attended Monday’s meeting, since Jerry was out of town at baseball meetings and Lisa was home sick. Lisa did send a short message to councilors prior to the meeting.
“We pray for a positive outcome,” she wrote. “Thank you for all you do.”