Coastal Plain League Adds New Franchise

The Coastal Plain League has called Holly Springs, N.C., home for nearly four years. Now the summer college league, which moved its league office to Holly Springs in the fall of 2009, will further cement its roots in the Raleigh suburb by bringing an expansion franchise to town.

The CPL announced Tuesday that it has come to an agreement with town officials to help fund a $5 million stadium that will host the league's 15th franchise. In a press conference with the Holly Springs mayor and town council members, league commissioner Justin Sellers revealed details about the newest collegiate summer league team, which is tentatively scheduled to begin play in May 2015. The team will pay $850,000 in rent over a 10-year span to play in the 2,000-seat ballpark and will cover gameday costs.

"Were a big small town . . . and I am very excited to welcome the Coastal Plain League, whose main office is in our town," Sears said, later joking that, "If you build it, they will come—and spend money."

Mayor Sears and the rest of the town council revealed plans for a $10 million multisport facility called the North Main Athletic Complex, which will be home to area baseball, football, soccer, lacrosse and tennis along with concerts and other public events. The main feature of the complex will be the all-turf stadium, which will host Holly Spring's new baseball team as well as area high school and youth baseball.

Since moving the league offices to Holly Springs in November of 2009, Sellers and league resident Pete Bock have welcomed the idea of bringing a team to the Raleigh-Durham area. After the recent success of the N.C. State and North Carolina baseball programs, Sellers believes now is the ideal time.

"The Holly Springs market will fit perfectly into our geographic footprint," Sellers said. "It's a good thing for the local colleges as well."

Sellers praised head coaches Eliot Avent (N.C. State), Mike Fox (UNC), and Chris Pollard (Duke) for their continued support, and noted that so much quality college baseball in the area gives the team a great starting point.

"These guys are big advocates for our league," he said, "and have already talked about sending their players to this Holly Springs team starting in 2015. It will fill a void for them to where kids that need to go take summer classes can come and play. I think you'll see a heavy nucleus of that (roster) sprinkled through with State, Carolina and Duke players, which would be advantageous for our baseball fans in Wake County."

Since starting play with six teams in 1997, the Coastal Plain League has quickly built a reputation as one a top summer league. The CPL has been home to more than 1,100 players selected in the amateur draft, including 63 alums who have made it to the major leagues.

In recent years, the CPL has developed a relationship with USA Baseball, whose National Training Center is based in nearby Cary, and annually take on National Teams in exhibitions at various CPL ballparks.
Sellers said Holly Springs was not the only community interested in joining the CPL and that he expects expansion to continue.

"We're in talks with a couple right now. I expect in the next couple years that you'll see a couple more expansion franchises coming to the CPL," he said.

In a brief statement about the league's current and future plans, league founder and president Pete Bock raved about the league's community influence.

"When the numbers finally were put in place, we were tremendously excited to see the economic impact here. One of the things I always get excited about is the social impact," Bock said. "It will be a gathering place for the community and for outsiders that want to come into this community to spend their money and enjoy what were doing every night."

For Sellers, the wheels are already turning on the team's first community involvement endeavor.

"We'll look to do a name-the-team contest, which is something that we typically do in our ballparks with new franchises and open it up to the community. We always like to try to see if there's anything native to the area, but at the same time it's one of those unique situations for us, we like to get the community involved in everything we do."