With lingering financial challenges, Dayton Dragons ask fans to support new relief bill

Congressional legislation would give Dragons 45% of 2019 revenue, president says

The Dayton Dragons are asking fans to get behind a congressional bill supporting Minor League baseball teams hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill, if passed, would provide to the Dragons nearly half of the revenue the team enjoyed in its 2019 campaign , its last full season before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down Minor League baseball last year.

Dragons President Robert Murphy asks fans to visit https://minorleaguebaseballrelief.com/, and type in one’s name and address. A letter will be automatically generated to that fan’s congressional district representative and to Ohio’s two senators.

The timing of the pandemic was cruel, forcing the Dragons to shut down revenue-producing operations even after months of investing and preparing for a new season in the spring of 2020, Murphy recalled in an interview Wednesday.

Asked if the Dragons organization is financially in the black, Murphy said: “No.”

Most fans coming to games today are attending on credits purchased for the 2020 season, Murphy said. While new revenue is being generated on sales of food, drinks, gifts and other items, the team still faces financial challenges.

“I believe we will have another (financial) loss this year,” Murphy said.

“Our financial status is, we have taken out debt that will act as a bridge to get us all the way to the end of 2022,” he added.

The team received a $4 million Main Street Lending Program loan last November, according to Federal Reserve data. The U.S. Treasury Department program offered five-year, deferred principal and interest payment loans aimed at small and middle-sized businesses and nonprofits.

However, the team is not in imminent danger, either. Said Murphy, “Yes, the Dayton Dragons will be there, but this would be very much a helping hand.”

The bill would provide 45% of what a team’s revenue was in 2019, Murphy said. He declined to say how much money that would be, but said it would be a “significant amount for this organization.”

“This would help us pay our bills,” Murphy said. “This will reduce debts that we have.”

The Dragons are citing data from the Wright State University Applied Sciences Institute estimating that the team has a more than $27 million impact on the Dayton region annually.

The Dragons employ more than 40 full-time staff and have over 500 seasonal/part-time staff members.

The bill — introduced in Congress last month by U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and others — is called the “Minor League Baseball Relief Act.”

ExploreWeathering last year's storm: Dragons offer refund to season ticket holders but ask for patience

After returning to full capacity this season, the owners of the Dayton Dragons received another $250,000 from Montgomery County in June. That’s in addition to more than $6 million in previous relief loans and grants to help pay for health safety upgrades and rebound from the pandemic, which wiped out all of the team’s revenue for some 20 months.

While those amounts are helpful, they are not enough, and that money is often targeted at specific, pandemic-related expenses, Murphy said.

It would have been almost impossible to get Day Air Ball Park open without that support because the team had no revenue in that 20-month period, he said.

The team opened under “difficult circumstances” and a restricted capacity in May, the team’s president said.

“It’s not so much of a hand out; it’s more of a helping hand,” Murphy said.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Unlike teams in Major League Baseball and other major sports leagues, Minor League clubs cannot rely on TV ad revenues to supplement the loss of proceeds from ticket sales, concessions, and in-person advertising, Dragons leadership noted.

“It was 22 years ago when the Dayton Dragons opened the stadium gates for the first time, and what has become a national phenomenon of 1,385 straight sold-out games,” the team said in a statement. “Our community has done something we all can be very proud of, and our downtown has blossomed with development.”

Randy Boyd, owner of Boyd Sports, added in a statement from the Dragons: “Minor League Baseball brings communities together, providing affordable family entertainment and job opportunities across the nation. This legislation will allow minor league teams to return to normal operation and result in saving baseball in many communities. We all appreciate Senator Blackburn’s leadership in this important effort.”

About the Author