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March 5, 2012 at 10:29 AM

Mariners president Chuck Armstrong says team not in serious talks on new TV deal

There was a press conference held by the city of Peoria today announcing a new 20-year lease extension for the Mariners and Padres to hold srping training here in Peoria. The deal begins early in 2014 and will involve up to $48 million in city-invested stadium, practice field and clubhouse improvements for spring training games.
Details are pretty sketchy at the moment, but needless to say, there have been plenty of changes in stadium design and clubhouses since the M’s began playing here in 1994 after moving over from Tempe, Ariz.
Mariners president Chuck Armstrong attended the event and afterwards, when he was done handling questions about the new lease and improvements, I eased him to the side and asked about the team’s 2015 opt-out clause in its television deal with ROOT Sports.
As you saw today, even smaller scale, spring training deals need to be reworked well in advance of their expiration date. The Mariners are likely to be involved in serious TV discussions well ahead of their 2015 opt-out, especially given the lucrative packages now being thrown around the game — incuding three of them going to in-division and soon-to-be-in-division rivals in the Angels, Rangers and Astros.
“We’re thinking about it,” Armstrong said. “But we’ve got other things. We’ve got this (spring training lease extension) on our mind, we’ve got the Japan trip, so that’s not…we’ve got a nice TV deal now and it’s only 2012.
“I think it’s up to the TV people. I think it’s up to the ROOT Sports people to initiate that.”

The Mariners just began a new 10-year, $450-million deal with ROOT Sports last season. But that contract, negotiated five years ago, has already been dwarfed by some of the newer ones around the game. Both the Angels and Rangers recently entered into 20-year deals some reports have pegged as high as $3 billion apiece.
The opt-out clause in the current M’s deal would allow the team to renegotiate — even as early as right now — to get a new contract more in-line with current market reality. The team could also try to go to another regional sports network starting in 2015, or even form their own.
After Armstrong answered my initial question, I then asked him how he felt about the lucrative deals being generated and whether they stood to benefit his team in the long run.
At that point, a Mariners PR person, hovering nearby, intervened and said questions about the TV contract were “outside the scope” of the day’s events.
Armstrong agreed, saying he was here to discuss the spring training lease extension and did not want to talk about the TV deal.
Anyhow, the TV deal stands as one of the final remaining checklist items for the Mariners when it comes to their financial flexibility long term.
As of right now, the only long-term contract on-the-books after 2013 will be the one belonging to pitcher Felix Hernandez. At this point, the team now has a spring training locale with promised improvements locked up for the next 20 years.
And once that TV deal is renegotiated — which it will have to be for the M’s to have any chance at being competitive in their own division — the team will have a vastly improved media revenue stream it will hope can sustain it for at least another decade.
It’s called getting your fiscal house in order. Today’s spring training extension was just one more step to be checked off the list.



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