Morning Headlines

Portland’s New Deal Could Bring Ballpark

Triple-A Portland’s hopes for a new ballpark got a boost when team owner, Meritt Paulson, was awarded a new MLS soccer team. As part of the deal, the city is required to turn PGE Park — currently home to the Beavers — into a soccer-only facility. However Paulson will need to generate over $80 million in funding for the two projects.

Mavs Update

An article in the VV Daily Press addresses the future of high Class A High Desert, noting that it is unlikely the team will stay in town when their lease expires after the 2010 season. That is hardly news, but I did find this quote by Brett Sports CEO Andy Bilig at the bottom of the piece rather interesting.

“Nothing, absolutely nothing will change in 2009,” Billig said. “Operations, ownership, not one thing will change for 2009. Everything will remain the same for 2009. Of that we are certain.”

High Desert owner Bobby Brett recently purchased Rancho Cucamonga and said that the Mavericks are now up for sale and that they are looking to sell the team quickly. It would seem that a sale of the team could create changes in High Desert this season, depending on how long it takes to get the necessary approvals of the deal done. Brett said he expects the Rancho sale to be completed around July. (I’ll have more on this soon.)

A Sounds Investment

An interesting piece from a few days ago about how Triple-A Nashville’s new owners are counting on a new marketing blitz and $2.5 million in ballpark renovations to re-spark interest in the Sounds.

This will certainly be an interesting situation to follow, as the owners theory supports the belief that minor league officials have long been preaching: that the sport is well situated to withstand a recession, even one as great as this, because people will still be looking for local entertainment that is both family friendly and inexpensive. Whether Nashville is able to overcome the economy will certainly be a test-case for the sport’s overall health.

Fewer Corporate Dollars

The New York Times examined over the weekend how the loss of corporate dollars has impacted professional sports team and leagues — from the firing of employees across several sporting landscapes to the cancellation of events in the LPGA.

As Minor League Baseball has grown, so has its dependence on corporate sponsors for promotions and to fill group seating and luxury box areas — and the following paragraph from the piece certainly relates to minor league teams: 

"Pro sports were once thought to be more resistant than other industries to recessions, but this is no ordinary downturn. Teams, leagues and tours have become increasingly reliant on revenue from corporate sponsorships, advertising and luxury suites, and are likely to suffer more than they did in previous downturns."

And how about this statement by Bud Selig to the LA Times?

“I used to think we were recession-proof,” Selig said. “I really did. This is different.”

Farewell To Teams

Arizona Star columnist Greg Hansen says there is little reason to believe Tucson will hold on to the Diamondbacks and Rockies, no matter what local officials have to say. Meanwhile, Mesa is feeling the pinch as fewer fans are traveling to see spring training games.

Talking Design

The Nashville City Paper recently sat down for a chat with HOK Sport Venue Event principal Russ Simmons about the industry and how it impacts their region. Among the questions was the best site for a new Nashville ballpark.

What is the best site for a future Nashville Sounds stadium?

I am disappointed, as I expect many people are, that the new Sounds facility did not get done in downtown. I am a strong believer that a quality minor-league baseball facility in downtown would pay great dividends to our community. I like the [formal Thermal] site that was proposed downtown. Bringing area citizens into downtown strengthens the identity of our city’s core. Providing affordable family entertainment to the Nashville community and the greater Middle Tennessee region is a goal that helps everyone.

Taking On Debt

Just a quick take on the breakdown of the Yankees’ debt for their new ballpark. Though the Yankees are certainly well positioned to sustain such debt during a recession, it will be interesting to see how other teams wih a large debt service survive during these troubled times. The most notable in the minors is Memphis, which we profile in our upcoming issue while also ranking the sport’s top ballparks.

R.O.C.K. In The Minor Leagues

Coming soon to a ballpark near you? Word has it that John Mellencamp is preparing for a summer tour of minor league ballparks (perhaps with venerable rockers Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson).

Ringin’ In the Spring

I’ve heard nothing but good things about Burlington, home of the Royals’ low Class A affiliate and the 2008 Midwest League champions. The not-so-new facility drew reviews as one of the best places to see a ballpark, for the atmosphere in the cozy small town is among the best in baseball. So it is nice to see the Royals honor that team with a ring ceremony at their minor league complex in Surprise, Ariz. I imagine Burlington will spend time at the beginning of the season doing the same.