By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The new ownership and management of the Winnipesaukee Muskrats, who are seeking permission to sell beer and wine during home games at Robbie Mills Field, may have had some fences to mend with city officials judging by the exchange between the team’s general manager, Kristian Svindland, and Mayor Ed Engler when the City Council met this week.
After Svindland outlined plans for the upcoming season, Engler raised several “governance issues,” which he said represented “gray areas” in the relationship between the team and the city. He reminded Svindland that the city, in partnership with the Bank of New Hampshire, invested in improvements at Robbie Mills Field to accommodate the team, has a seat on its board of directors and entered a contract with the nonprofit corporation that operates the franchise to lease Robbie Mills Field.
Yet despite being a stakeholder, the city only learned that the franchise was sold to new owners and the team was renamed from the Laconia Muskrats to the Winnipesaukee Muskrats from a press report. Last year, three businessmen — Ira Blumenthal, Todd Hewett and Andy Minckler — purchased the franchise from its original owners, Jonathan and Noah Crane, and appointed Svindland general manager.
Engler pointed out that the city entered a contract with the Cranes which has not been amended to reflect the change of ownership. Moreover, he said that last year the contract was amended to require completion of the deck atop the left field wall by Nov. 30, 2015, adding that since the project was not finished the contract is technically null and void. Granting that the contract of a corporation can be assigned to new owners, Engler asked “Who is accountable? Who do we have a contract with?”
Svindland readily accepted responsibility.
“It’s on me,” he said. “My bad.”
He said that he was not aware the city was a stakeholder or of its contract with the Cranes.
On his part, Engler conceded that there may be some confusion over the responsibilities of the City Council and the Parks and Recreation Commission.
Svindland said he approached the Parks and Recreation Commission, which agreed to extend the deadline for completing the deck by a year. Engler reminded him that the contract has not been not amended to include the extension. The mayor suggested clarifying the governance structure, particularly the relationship between the corporation, City Council and Parks and Recreation Commission. He said that clarification is necessary because the future of the unfinished deck and the owners’ request to sell beer and wine at home games remain outstanding and the role of the City Council in resolving them is unclear.
Svindland assured the council that completing the deck is “a goal of the new ownership” and said that they hope to show progress or complete the project this year. He said that he suggested changing the name of the team to appeal to the wider Lakes Region and indicated that he was already finding sponsors and partners beyond the city. The aim, he noted, is to have a corporate entity or nonprofit organization sponsor each of the 22 home games. In addition, the team intends to erect a sign on Parade Road directing motorists to Robbie Mills Field, whhich will be designated as the home of the Laconia Sachems as well as the Winnipesaukee Muskrats.
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