Rockland Boulders ballpark's 2012 finances remain a mystery, worrying residents, NY officials
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As the Rockland Boulders gear up for opening day in less than a month, Ramapo town officials say 2012 financial figures for the team's Pomona stadium -- which were to be released in February -- are still not available, drawing concerns from state officials and local residents.
"It's an economic crater. It's going to bleed and bleed and bleed for decades to come -- if it lasts that long," Michael Castelluccio, a spokesman for the political watchdog group Preserve Ramapo, said of the two-year-old Provident Bank Park. "The entire project was crazy to begin with."
With the first pitch set to be thrown on May 16, the official list of summer events and concerts -- which are to be a major source of revenue for the ballpark -- also has not yet been finalized.
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Local residents and state officials have had their eye on the stadium since its inception with fears that actual revenues will fall short of projections. Now, planning seems to be off the mark compared to last year, when finances for its inaugural 2011 season were released the following February and details on 2012 summer events and concerts were completed by March.
Aaron Troodler -- attorney for the town-backed Local Development Corporation that controls the controversial $39 million stadium -- said they are waiting on accountants and team owners to find time to convene and pore over the records.
"The principal people involved in this are always busy," Troodler said. "We'll figure it out . . . I'm not concerned because it'll get settled and we'll get the numbers."
Troodler said the Boulders' key figureheads live in Florida most of the year and it's a "challenge" to get everyone together right before the season starts.
"No one should read anything into it," Troodler said. "It takes a lot of time to sit down and digest the data."
Rockland Boulders president Ken Lehner and Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, who helped push through the stadium construction project, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Castelluccio, meanwhile, called Troodler's explanation "excuses."
"They are hiding the numbers because they're nowhere near what St. Lawrence promised that enterprise was going to produce in terms of paying for itself," Castelluccio said.
In 2011, revenues added up to $734,101 -- short of a consultant-projected $1 million figure. Ramapo Supervisor St. Lawrence -- who also heads the LDC -- has said they missed the mark due to a late start in the season and a low number of private events that were held.
Troodler has continued to say he expects last year's revenues to be better, as game attendance numbers have shot up from 123,704 people in 2011 to 161,375 in 2012, which put the Boulders in the No. 1 spot of all five teams in the independent Canadian-American League.
ANOTHER STATE AUDIT A 'POSSIBILITY'
Despite not knowing how Provident Bank Park fared last season, the LDC in February signed off on its refinancing, extending its five-year, $25 million bond to a 30-year repayment note. Yearly payments were reduced from $5 million to $1.5 million, a move that Troodler contends was done to save on interest, not because lower-than-expected revenue couldn't foot the bills.
State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli conducted an audit in February 2012 that raised questions about the ballpark's revenue estimates. The refinancing this February -- without knowing revenue figures -- raised eyebrows, as well, and questions still linger.
"We need to know if they're doing their due diligence and making sure their revenue sources are accurate and their projections are based in reality," said Brian Butry, a DiNapoli spokesman. "Are they generating sufficient revenue to offset the liability of the town? Any decisions moving forward need to be made with that in mind."
Butry said another audit on the ballpark's finances is "always a possibility", but declined to say if one is being planned for the near future.
CONTINUING TO 'WAIT'
St. Lawrence has continuously been the subject of ire for pushing plans for the stadium through despite 70 percent of voters rejecting the project in a referendum.
Castelluccio, who pointed out that Ramapo taxes were raised 9 percent for 2013, said he fears the ballpark will continue to add to the town's fiscal woes.
"We're underwater and a lot of it has to do with the boondoggle they call a stadium," Castelluccio said.
He added that he and members of his group have continually asked for the numbers, but each time are told to "wait."
"It's a transparency problem," Castelluccio said.
While exact revenues for 2012 have not been released, Troodler said the LDC has been budgeting "conservatively" to ensure they won't be in any financial trouble should the numbers come back less than hoped.
"We have an idea of what it could be," Troodler said. "If they're bleaker than what we expected, then we'll deal with it at that time."