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Wizards unhappy with city idea of taking over concession sales

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With the success of the city-run ice rink concession stand, Watertown officials will explore whether the city also should take over the food and beverage stands at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, where the Watertown Wizards baseball team and the Red & Black football team play.

The city has just started negotiations to extend the lease agreement with the Wizards, a collegiate summer league baseball team, and talks are expected to continue this month. Both the Wizards and the Watertown Red & Black semipro football team operate the fairgrounds concession stands, with the city receiving 10 percent of the gross annual revenues made by the two teams on sales. In recent years, that equaled out to be about $1,000, said Jayme M. St. Croix, the city's superintendent of parks and recreation.

The subject of expanding the city's involvement with the concession stands came up Monday night after Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham praised the city's handling of the stand in the ice rink at the fairgrounds it took over this fall. He wondered why the city built the ballpark and other organizations are profiting from operating the food and beer stands there, saying it is just something the city should at least look at.

"I'm open-minded about it. It's worth considering," Councilman Joseph M. Butler Jr. said, stressing that the city first would have to make sure it would be profitable to get involved in hiring staff and actually running the stands.

But Wizards part-owner Paul A. Simmons, a former city councilman, said the city should be wary of going through with the idea, since the team relies heavily on food and beverage sales.

"If we did not have them, we wouldn't be able to run a ball team," Mr. Simmons said. "We run a tight, tight, tight ship."

The team uses the small amount of money left over after paying the team's expenses for such community organizations as the Babe Ruth league, and to sponsor the Watertown Midget baseball league, he said.

It would be difficult if the team stopped receiving the revenues, since it also pays rent at $100 per day game, $150 a night game and $50 for each practice, plus $150 a month for office space at the Fairgrounds, Mr. Simmons said.

He said he recently spoke briefly about the idea with City Manager Mary M. Corriveau, emphasizing negotiations could get bogged down if the city pursues it because of the team's needs for those revenues. He said he hopes to conclude the negotiations in March, adding the team has been happy with the relationship with the city and the job the parks department does with the team.

Meanwhile, the Red & Black football team is in the middle of a three-year contract with the city; it also pays 10 percent of the gross concession stand sales to the city.

Contacted Tuesday, Red & Black Coach George D. Ashcraft said it was the first he had heard about the city considering the change, adding he hoped city officials would contact him about it.

If it does pursue running the concession stands, the city will have look at the legality of selling beer there, Mrs. Corriveau said. Council members instructed City Attorney Robert J. Slye to research that issue, noting that his conclusion would play a role in the city's decision to run the stands.

In November, the Wizards organization announced it was leaving the New York Collegiate Baseball League to join the eight-team Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, playing about 25 games a season. The Red & Black plays five regular home games at the Fairgrounds.

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