The Astros’ high Class A affiliate will be in the Carolina League next year, that much is certain. Where the team will play, however, is still up in the air. There have been efforts in recent days to begin the assembling and trimming of potential temporary homes for the new team, which will eventually be based in Fayetteville, N.C.
Wherever the new team lands, it will play there for two seasons until the proposed new stadium is ready for the 2019 season.
Now, Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan says, it’s time to start looking for homes for the present.
“We’re just looking right now at lots of places that we could go,” Ryan said. “We really don’t have a public plan or a defined plan. We’re sort of doing an inventory of every place that we think might be a possibility right now.”
Ryan didn’t elaborate on where the Astros had been looking, but noted that he and other Astros officials had been in and out of North Carolina in recent days and that the team hopes to have a facility in place by the end of October. He also said that the team had been looking primarily at old minor league stadiums and current college stadiums.
Financing for an eventual permanent home in Fayetteville isn’t done yet, but is progressing.
Cumberland County this week unanimously approved their proposed part of funding the stadium, which is expected to cost a total of $33 million. The county is on the hook for between 16 and 20 percent of that cost, which will be paid for in part by a tax increase.
“Everything on the Fayetteville end is moving ahead on schedule, if not ahead of schedule,” Ryan said.
The Astros’ team will be one of two new teams in the Carolina League, which took over the clubs after Bakersfield and High Desert in the California League were contracted after this season. The Rangers’ new team, which will play in Kinston, N.C., made a little news of its own.
The franchise officially completed its purchase from Minor League Baseball on Friday and formally announced a four-year Player Development Contract with the Rangers. The Rangers on Aug. 22 agreed to purchase the controlling interest from the former High Desert franchise from MiLB.
“The Rangers are pleased to officially complete our purchase of the Kinston franchise,” Neil Leibman, chairman of the Rangers ownership committee and CEO of Kinston Baseball LLC, said. “While per the Minor League Baseball Agreement, all official Player Development Agreements can be only for a four-year maximum, the Rangers have a 12-year lease with the City of Kinston, and we expect a long and productive partnership with this great region.”
The shuttered Bakersfield franchise was formerly affiliated with the Mariners, which responded by purchasing a majority stake in the Cal League’s Modesto franchise. Modesto had previously been with the Rockies, which are currently without a high Class A affiliate and will wind up with either Carolina of the Carolina League or Lancaster in the California League.