By Jim Ingraham
January 28, 2002
CLEVELAND–The Cleveland Indians, who already have a very cozy geographical proximity to many of their affiliates, will soon be closing their ranks even more.
The Indians’ Columbus, Ga., affiliate in the low Class-A South Atlantic League will be transferred to Eastlake, Ohio in 2003.
Columbus owners Rita Murphy Carfagna and Ray Murphy, who both live in the Cleveland area, will move the RedStixx to Eastlake, where the club will play in a new $17 million stadium, scheduled to be completed in time for the opening of the 2003 season.
The relocation of the franchise, which still must be approved by the South Atlantic League and the National Association, will end an affiliation between the Indians and Columbus that dates to 1991.
Concerns about the stadium in Columbus, and declining attendance–the RedStixx drew just 115,004 in 2001, the fourth lowest total in the league–plus the chance to play closer to Cleveland, were all factors in the decision to relocate the franchise.
The team has signed a 25-year agreement with the city of Eastlake, and will pay $400,000 in annual rent. The team will be known as “Lake County,” rather than Eastlake, and a new nickname will eventually be selected.
Indians officials are pleased they will have another affiliate within driving distance of Jacobs Field. Starting next year, four of the Indians’ six minor league teams will be located within a three-hour drive of downtown Cleveland.
Triple-A Buffalo is three hours east of Cleveland, Double-A Akron is 40 minutes south of Cleveland, Rookie-level Mahoning Valley is 60 minutes east of Cleveland, and Eastlake is just 18 miles east of Cleveland.
“This is going to be a great fit for us from an evaluation standpoint,” said John Farrell, the Indians’ director of player development.”And it’s going to be nice to stay affiliated with the South Atlantic League.”