Owners of a now defunct Joplin baseball team could end up getting taxpayer money on a regular basis. The Joplin Blasters played only two baseball seasons. Owners of the team say ticket sales weren't enough to pay the City of Joplin rent for Joe Becker Stadium.
The team dissolved the later part of last year. But some of the owners' assets remain in Joplin.
Joplin resident Jeff Bullette says he always had a bad feeling about the owners of the Blasters baseball team.
"I'm surprised they ever got a baseball team in the first place," says Bullette. "I didn't know what they thought they were doing. I didn't think anybody would go to their games."
Bullette hopes different Joe Becker stadium tenants will better manage operations. There's an empty ball field and stands for those tenants. But according to court documents on outdoor signs at Joe Becker's main parking lot, the family who owned the Blasters---the Suarez family---still owns a little more than half of the stadium's main parking lot.
Take a look at the picture included with this story. Red is what the City owns. Blue represents Suarez property.
"There are a number of disputes," says Karl Blanchard, an outside attorney in Joplin representing the City of Joplin.
The City has sued the Suarez family for more than $3 million over not paying a lease agreement. The Suarez family has counter sued, blaming the City for not getting enough Blasters revenue.
Blanchard says the goal now is to start mediation talks with the Suarez family, allowing the City to move on.
"Hopefully in the future, get somebody to rent the stadium," says Blanchard.
But Blanchard says if the Suarez family doesn't want to sell their piece of parking lot, future tenants of Joe Becker (or the City itself) will probably have to pay rent to the Suarez family to use their parking spaces, since the Suarez's property takes up a large portion of the stadium's main parking lot.
We asked Blanchard if the City could use eminent domain on the parking lot property.
"Hadn't thought about that," says Blanchard.
Bullette wants the City to use rent owed from the Blasters as leverage.
"Seems like they could trade that parking lot for the money that they owe them," says Bullette.
According to Blanchard, the City could also purchase the land from the Suarez family.
Mediation talks between the City of Joplin and the Suarez family could happen next month.
"We simply will bring our clients together and give them advice. Do I hope it's settled? I do," says Blanchard.
Steven Hays, a Joplin attorney representing the Suarez family, hasn't returned our phone call for comment on this story.
Blanchard says the Suarez family got this piece of parking lot property when the City and the Suarez family were working out details of Joe Becker's renovation. The Suarez family agreed to buy some parcels of land that eventually were turned into stadium parking.
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