Biz Beat Roundup: Intimidators, Redbirds Sold, Giants Stick With Squirrels

Reese L. Smith, as part of a group from Nashville, has agreed to purchase the Kannapolis Intimidators, according to the Charlotte Business Journal.

The Intimidators, the low Class A affiliate of the White Sox, are currently owned by the Brad Smith family, which has also agreed to the sale. The Kannapolis, N.C., city council also has agreed to transfer the stadium’s lease to Smith. The sale is contingent upon approval from Minor League Baseball.

Smith, who also owns the high Class A Daytona Tortugas (Reds), told the Journal he plans to keep the Intimidators in Kannapolis but will explore options to move the team downtown, away from its current location on Moose Road.

The city manager, Mike Legg, is also on board with a possible move to downtown.

“We look forward to working with them as we consider a sports and entertainment venue as an anchor in the soon to be completed downtown revitalization plan,” he told the Journal.

Jeff Cogen, the CEO of the NHL’s Nashville Predators, is also involved with the purchase.

Cardinals Sell Their Stake In Triple-A Redbirds

The troubled franchise that is the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds is getting another new owner. The parent St. Louis Cardinals announced they were selling their majority interest in the Redbirds to Peter Freund, the principal owner of Trinity Baseball Holdings. The agreement is pending the full approval from the Pacific Coast League (generally considered a formality) and calls for the transaction to be completed by April 1.

The Redbirds, who will play host to the Triple-A National Championship in September, have been saddled with debt issues for most of their existence since building AutoZone Park in 2000 for $80.5 million, which at the time made it the minors’ most expensive ballpark. In April 2014, the Cardinals, seeking to help their financially troubled affiliate, bought the franchise, which had been set up to operate as a community-owned non-profit but had struggled to stay out of the red. As part of the sale, Memphis general manager Craig Unger added the title of president to that of GM, in a move designed to keep the transition as smooth as possible.

“While we were not actively looking to sell a stake in the team, after meeting Peter we immediately knew that partnering with him would strengthen the Memphis Redbirds and be a win for everyone involved,” Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a March 7 press release. “To have someone of Peter’s caliber and track record of success in minor league baseball willing to make this investment further solidifies the revitalization of this flagship franchise and baseball in Memphis.”

Freund has a long baseball background. He’s a minority owner of the big league Yankees; is the principal owner of the Williamsport Crosscutters, the Phillies’ short-season New York-Penn League affiliate; and is a co-owner of the Charleston RiverDogs, the Yankees affiliate in thelow Class A South Atlantic League.

“I immediately fell in love with the city of Memphis and the Redbirds the moment I stepped foot in AutoZone Park and met the leadership team,” Freund said in the press release. “I am thrilled to join the St. Louis Cardinals in partnership to ensure the Memphis Redbirds remain the premier Triple-A franchise in all of minor league baseball.”

Giants, Flying Squirrels Extend Partnership Through 2020

The Richmond Flying Squirrels and San Francisco Giants have extended their player-development contract through 2020, the Squirrels announced.

The Giants and the franchise have been together since 2003, when the franchise was located in Norwich, Conn., and known as the Norwich Navigators and later the Connecticut Defenders. The team relocated to Richmond in 2009 and rebranded as the Flying Squirrels.

“Richmond has been an important part of the success of the Giants farm system over the past six seasons, Thirty four Flying Squirrels have contributed to the major league club, and many of them played key roles in the Giants World Series championships,” Giants general manager Bobby Evans said in a statement.

“The Flying Squirrels’ front office is a true partner to our business, player development and staff needs. Their consistent communication and professionalism is refreshing, and they maintain a faithful commitment to our staff and players. We look forward to the completion of plans for building a new stadium and are confident that the Flying Squirrels will continue to make Richmond and its fans proud.”

And while the two are guaranteed to be together for the next five seasons, the partnership might have to withstand another move.

The Squirrels, just as the Richmond Braves did before them, are trying to get a new stadium to replace The Diamond, the team’s 31-year-old ballpark. The community, however, is mixed on whether financing for a new ballpark should come before the some of the city’s other needs.

At the team’s hot stove banquet in January, Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner made it clear that if they can’t get a new stadium, the Flying Squirrels will leave Richmond when their lease on the stadium expires at the end of next season.

“We came here with a Double-A club under the assumption that a stadium was going to be built, and that’s been 10 years ago,” O’Conner told the media at the banquet on Jan. 21. “I would be hard-pressed to make that mistake twice.”

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