TRENTON, N.J. -Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes today announced a new 10-year contract has been signed between the County and the Trenton Thunder, keeping the title-winning New York Yankees Double-A affiliate in Mercer County through 2023.
The new deal, which was negotiated over more than a year, restructures some responsibilities of both parties in order to simplify the operation of the team and County-owned Waterfront Park stadium. The 10-year contract extends the team's lease at the stadium from 2013 to 2023.
"This is a fantastic milestone for Mercer County, for the City of Trenton, and for the Trenton Thunder," said Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes. "The Trenton Thunder has become a part of our community, and we're extremely pleased to have completed this deal to keep this team here for another 15 years."
Hughes called the contract a "victory" for both the County and the team. The original contract was signed in 1993 and was set to expire in 2013, but both the Thunder and the Mercer County Park Commission, which operated the stadium, agreed to renegotiate a new contract early. Both Thunder and Mercer County officials were interested in keeping the team in Waterfront Park, and worked cooperatively for the last year to ink a new contract.
"The Thunder is thrilled and honored to be able to extend our lease arrangement with Mercer County for an additional 10 years," said Thunder co-owner and President Joe Finley. "We could not have a better partner than Mercer County and our relationship with Brian Hughes and the Freeholder Board has been terrific. We look forward to many good years to come at Mercer County Waterfront Park."
The agreement was unanimously approved by the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders July 17. It brings several changes from the previous contract which were created to allow for a more seamless operation, according to Park Commission Executive Director Kevin Bannon.
In the past, Waterfront Park had been completely managed by Mercer County and the County Park Commission, from building maintenance to cleaning to groundskeeping. Under the new contract, the Thunder will take over a majority of those responsibilities for a flat, $25,000 fee paid by the County. This new agreement allows the team more control over the operation of the field and stadium, and allows the County to devote more time and resources toward the upkeep of the building and grounds.
In addition, a new rental fee agreement will simplify the portion of revenue the County receives from the team, replacing the old and complicated "formula" method for revenue sharing outlined in the previous contract.
"We are very happy to continue our relationship with the Trenton Thunder and to continue to provide a family-friendly venue and great entertainment for our residents," said Board of Chosen Freeholders Chair Lucylle R.S. Walter.
The Trenton Thunder and Waterfront Park both celebrated their first 15 years in operation in 2007, and the Thunder took home Trenton's first Eastern League Championship on September 15.
The Thunder has been recognized nationally for its community outreach and overall success as a franchise several times since its inception in 1994. Prior to the 2007 season, the Thunder earned the John H. Johnson President's Trophy, which recognizes the most "Complete Baseball Franchise" out of the 160 teams in affiliated baseball. With the honor of the Johnson Trophy, the Thunder became just the 10th team in Minor League Baseball history to win the three major team awards in Minor League Baseball: the Johnson Trophy, the Larry MacPhail Trophy for Outstanding Club Promotion (2003) and the Bob Freitas Award for Long-Term Success (1998, given by Baseball America).
The Thunder's formula for success has involved providing a first-class entertainment experience in a clean, safe and affordable family environment while being a fixture in the local communities. This formula has worked to earn record-breaking results. The Thunder have drawn over 400,000 fans in each of the last 13 seasons and welcomed the 6,000,000th fan in the history of the franchise this season. Both of these are records for Minor League Baseball at the Class AA level and below.
Off the field, the team was honored at the Trenton Renaissance Ball in October 2007 with the "Good Neighbor Award." The award, given by the Trenton Chapter of the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce, was in recognition of the team's history of service to the greater Trenton community.
To date, the Thunder have donated over $3 million worth of goods, services and monetary donations to non-profit organizations in the region.