Augusta GreenJackets promise return next yearJuly 2, 2020 1:46pm

July 01--An Augusta GreenJackets official said the team will be back next year season and stronger than ever after the 2020 season was officially canceled Tuesday by Minor League Baseball.

Missy Martin, minority owner and vice president of operations, said Wednesday there is "zero chance" of the GreenJackets folding after MiLB's decison not to play minor league baseball this year.

Martin acknowledged the gravity of not having a 2020 season and asked for the community's support.

"We just got hit by a Mack Truck yesterday," she said. "A little piece of our hearts all broke, and we just need our community to really be positive and support us right now."

The GreenJackets continue to receive support from the City of North Augusta. City Administrator Rachelle Moody said they have been in constant communications with the club on actions moving forward.

SRP Park, home to the GreenJackets, is a major economic driver to the city, particularly to the developing Riverside Village where the stadium is located. But Moody reassured that the city has a diverse, healthy economy and that loss of play this year won't impact Riverside's development.

"Instead, it will impact the types of events that will be held in SRP Park," she said. "The facility is designed to hold a variety of indoor and outdoor events year-round. The GreenJackets have continued to book and host events in the facility that fall within the operational guidelines set forth by the governor. Now that the baseball season is officially canceled, the GreenJackets can focus more on hosting public and private events until the 2021 baseball season starts."

The club has held various events at SRP Park during the pandemic such as happy hours on Thursdays and a Father's Day brunch/BBQ. Martin said these kinds of events helped them give the city a partial payment of $100,000 on the stadium's rent.

Rent was due April 1. However, the stadium license agreement has a force majeure clause that allows the GreenJackets to defer payments until a decision about the baseball season was made. It also allowed payments to be delayed for as long as the season was delayed. Minor League Baseball announced its initial delay of the season March 12.

Martin said the club's payments will be made to the city by year's end, but said they still are in real need of the community's support through attending events at SRP Park as well as purchasing season tickets and fan gear.

A patriotic-themed happy hour is scheduled for Thursday from 4 . to 8 p.m. and will feature live music. The club is also taking registrations for its children's summer camp July 28 through 30.

Martin said they are open to a lot of ideas for different events, including the popular one of hosting movie nights on SRP Park's jumbo-tron.

"We're in a cash-conserve mode," she said. "We have laid off/furloughed over half of our staff, the other half has taken pay cuts. So, right now, for us to do anything in the stadium, it has to be able to generate enough cash for us so that we can meet our obligations."

Minor League Baseball President and CEO Pat O'Conner said this is an unprecedented time for America and the league, but the cancellation removes the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season and allows the teams to begin planning for an exciting 2021 season of affordable family entertainment.

The uncertainty O'Conner was referring to has been a point of contention for minor league organizations throughout the year. While Major League Baseball and the players' association were negotiating conditions for a major league season, minor league affiliates were kept in the dark as to the status of their season.

The GreenJackets are involved in a 15-team federal lawsuit against insurance providers over denied business-interruption claims.

The suit, filed June 23 in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, comes after the provider denied the clubs' claims for business-interruption insurance due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reason for the denial states was that the claim wasn't directly related to damage or loss of property, with some policies even excluding coverage for things caused by viruses, according to a report from The Associated Press.

"We pay a significant amount in premiums in preparation for these catastrophic consequences," Martin said. "The insurer gladly accepted our premium, now it's time for them to pay."

The club is now planning for the 2021 season. It is in the process of contacting ticket holders, members and sponsors about the status of their current packages. More information can be found on the team's website.

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(c)2020 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.)

Visit The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.) at chronicle.augusta.com

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