UPDATE: Since this story was originally published, the El Paso city council approved a proposal to build a Triple-A ballpark.
The city council voted 6-2 to partner with MountainStar Sports Group LLC on a $50 million downtown stadium to be built on the site of the current city hall. The group plans to finance the ballpark with a proposed hotel tax increase, which will go on the ballot in November, and hopes to have the ballpark completed by the start of the 2014 season.
The investment group, which is headed by local real estate magnate William Hunt and oil and gas tycoon Paul Foster, still needs to secure a franchise. The only Triple-A team on the market is the Tucson Padres, which is owned by former Padres CEO Jeff Moorad. Pacific Coast League president Branch Rickey would not confirm which team MountainStar is interested in, but says the league has been contacted by the group.
"We’ve been approached by an investor group in El Paso that would like to buy a PCL franchise and relocate it to El Paso," Rickey said this afternoon. "We are planning to have a meeting with them."
Previous: Affiliated baseball may be on the way back to El Paso, Texas.
The city that saw its Double-A Texas League affiliate leave town after the 2004 season for a new ballpark in Springfield, Mo., is considering building a new $50 million stadium of its own to play host to a Triple-A franchise. The city council is expected to vote today on whether to move ahead with the project, which will be contingent on voters approving an increased hotel tax in November.
The project will also be contingent on the local investment group MountainStar Sports Group LLC, which is led by real estate magnate William Hunt and oil and gas tycoon Paul Foster, purchasing a Pacific Coast League franchise to bring to El Paso. The only PCL franchise on the market is the Tucson Padres, which former San Diego Padres CEO Jeff Moorad purchased two years ago when the club was forced to leave Portland, Ore., after then-owner Merritt Paulson converted its ballpark into a soccer-only facility. Moorad had hoped to relocate the team to a new ballpark in the San Diego suburb of Escondido, but financing for the project fell through amid California’s budget crisis and Moorad has since left his post with the Padres after MLB rejected his bid to purchase the team.
Minor League Baseball had considered moving the Portland franchise to El Paso when it was looking for a temporary landing spot for the team after the 2010 season. MILB ultimately passed on El Paso amid concerns about where the team would play and the city’s demographics—in particular it’s high poverty rate—and settled on Tucson, which had lost its PCL franchise just two years earlier.
UPDATE: What a difference a day—and a good drainage system—makes.
Less than 24 hours after the Clearwater Threshers' playing field was left submerged from the heavy rains of Tropical Storm Debby, Bright House Field is almost as good as new. The standing water that covered Bright House Field is largely gone. The flooded dugouts are almost empty and the soggy team offices are airing out.
"The field took a lot of water, but we have a great drainage system here," Threshers media relations assistant Joe Charlton said. "It's a little damp on the ground floor level. It's amazing, if you look at a picture yesterday, the whole field was flooded. But look now and you wouldn't even know it rained."
. . . The Clearwater Threshers aren't scheduled to play a home game until Thursday, which appears to be fortunate considering the mess Tropical Storm Debby has made of the Florida State League affiliate's ballpark.
The slow-moving storm all-but erased the FSL's schedule yesterday as it dumped 12 inches of rain in various parts of western and central Florida. Clearwater's Bright House Field appeared particularly hard hit, evidenced by a photo from Threshers pitcher Justin De Fratus showing the usually picturesque playing field completely submerged. Calls to Threshers management and Minor League Baseball headquarters—located in St. Petersburg, Fla.—were (understandably) not immediately returned.
Only one of the FSL's six games was played yesterday. No information on today's cancellations had been announced.
After 10 years of trying, the Charlotte Knights are finally getting their new ballpark.
The Charlotte City Council voted 7-4 tonight to contribute $8 million toward a new downtown ballpark, the final piece of a $54 million project that is scheduled to be completed by Opening Day 2014. The Knights, a Triple-A International League affiliate that plays roughly 30 minutes south of Charlotte in Fort Mill, S.C., will contribute $38 million to construction costs–with a significant portion of those funds coming from a naming-rights agreement with BB&T Corp.
Charlotte has struggled to draw crowds to its current home and was the only IL franchise last season to total fewer than 300,000 spectators. The team expects to double that number at its future home.
"The opportunities this will present for that club from a business perspective cannot be overstated," International League president Randy Mobley said earlier today.
The Knights become the second International League franchise to gain approval for a new ballpark this year. Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre broke ground on a new stadium this spring that is expected to open by the start of next season. No new IL ballparks had opened since the Columbus Clippers and Gwinnett Braves each debuted new venues in 2009.
The Charlotte Knights’ most-important pitch of the night—if not the decade—will take place about 400 miles away from the International League affiliate’s game at the Columbus Clippers’ Huntington Park.
The Knights’ long quest for a new ballpark may come to an end this evening when the Charlotte City Council votes on the team’s latest, and arguably best, proposal for a new home tonight. The team is seeking to build a new $54 million ballpark in downtown Charlotte—about 30 minutes from its current base in Fort Mill, S.C.—and is asking the city to donate $8 million toward the project. The Knights would pay $38 million—funded largely from a naming rights deal with BB&T Corp—while Mecklenburg (N.C.) County would contribute $8 million and lease the 8-acre stadium site to the team for $1 a year.
The proposal seems to have enough support on the city council—particularly since the team lowered its original request from $11 million and withdrew a request for a $2.5 million property tax rebate—and would bring an end to a saga that had been frequently delayed by a series of lawsuits from a local attorney on the use of the property. The new ballpark, scheduled to open in time for the 2014 season, would significantly alter the fortunes of a franchise that last season finished last among IL teams in attendance. Team officials have said they would draw closer to 600,000 fans at the new ballpark.
“It would be a 180-degree turn to be able to have that franchise in (a downtown) ballpark,” International League president Randy Mobley said this afternoon. “I think all of us are convinced that this would have the potential to be the best set up in the league. It will certainly be as good as any, but it has the potential to be better than anything we have going . . . The opportunities this will present for that club from a business perspective cannot be overstated.”
Jimmie Lee Solomon, who once oversaw all of Major League Baseball's on-field operations, is now out at MLB.
Two baseball sources confirmed that Solomon, whose current position was executive vice president of business development, had been fired by MLB after a 21-year career there. When reached by telephone Tuesday evening, Solomon declined to comment.
One MLB source said Solomon's firing became known on Monday, though he said no official announcement had been made to employees.
(UPDATE: On Thursday evening, MLB announced in a press release that Solomon had resigned from his position. As part of the statement, commissioner Bud Selig thanked Solomon "for his 20-plus years of service" and "contributions he has made in a number of different areas throughout the game.")
Solomon’s dismissal comes nearly two years to the day after he was reassigned from his post as executive vice president of baseball operations, in which he oversaw all on-field activities of MLB—including security and umpiring. He had held the position since replacing Sandy Alderson in 2005, and was reassigned by commissioner Bud Selig after an uproar over the poor quality of umpiring and one week after umpire Jim Joyce blew a call that cost then-Tigers pitcher Armando Gallaraga a perfect game.
After his reassignment, Solomon had much less responsibility, chiefly overseeing MLB's relationship with the minor leagues, its Urban Youth Academies and the Civil Rights Game. Even so, those contacted by Baseball America said Solomon’s dismissal comes as a surprise. Last year Solomon helped negotiate a six-year extension of the Professional Baseball Agreement with Minor League Baseball, keeping the relationship between the majors and minors in tact through the 2020 season.
Solomon joined MLB in 1991 as director of minor league operations and steadily climbed baseball’s corporate ladder. He played a key role in many of MLB’s recent diversity initiatives, including the development of the Urban Youth Academies and the growth of the Civil Rights Game, and helped add the Futures Game to baseball’s all-star celebration. Before joining MLB, Solomon spent 10 years as a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of the Baker & Hostetler law firm and primarily served corporate and sports industry clients.
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