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Elmore Sports Group Shuffles Its Franchises



The Elmore Sports Group announced on Wednesday their version of the Texas two-step, with a Mile High Twist.

The group announced a three-city, three-team, three-league shuffle. The San Antonio Missions will play their final season in the Double-A Texas League in 2018 before moving into the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 2019. They will continue playing at Nelson Wolff Stadium (the Missions' current home) until a new stadium is completed. That could take some time, as the process of planning and building a stadium to replace Wolff Stadium has not begun, Missions president Burl Yarbrough said.

"While we have not yet determined what the specific baseball stadium needs are to advance to Triple-A, nor have we secured private sector development partners or a stadium development plan, we will begin that process immediately," Yarbrough said.

The Double-A franchise will move to Amarillo, Texas, starting in 2019, and will play in a $45 million stadium that will be completed in time for the move. The team will be given a new name and identity at that time.

To complete the trifecta, the Elmores will move the Helena Brewers, their current franchise in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, into the Colorado Springs' current home of Security Service Field.

“We are pleased to be able to continue providing affiliated professional baseball to the great city of Colorado Springs for many years to come as part of this transition,” Elmore Sports Group president D.G. Elmore said in a release. “The Pioneer Baseball League schedule is a much better fit for this climate here, as the schedule begins in June and runs into early September, a time where fewer games will be impacted by weather and fans will be able to enjoy the ballgames throughout the summer months.”

Helena, which was a part of the Pioneer League from 1978-2000 and then again starting in 2003, will lose its franchise. The club drew a Pioneer League-low 37,624 fans in 2016. Helena's Kindrick Field was built in 1939 making it one of the oldest ballparks in the minors.

"Despite the news, we still have two more seasons in Helena and it will be business as usual," Helena president and general manager Paul Fetz said in a release. "We will continue to give our fans and sponsors a great value and experience. We look forward to continuing to create lasting memories for our fans and the city of Helena and hopefully bring home another Pioneer League championship."

All of the moves are still subject to the approval of the league commissioners, the president of Minor League Baseball and the Commissioner's Office.

This series of moves had been rumored since before the 2016 affiliation shuffle, but there were plenty of curveballs thrown in during the interim. Lubbock, Texas, made a play for Double-A franchise in 2016. The two sides got to the point where the Lubbock city council spoke with the Missions about the potential overture. The city council approved a potential new stadium for the team at a cost of $48 million contingent on landing a Double-A franchise, which has not happened. Wichita, Kan., also threw its hat into the ring.

If the moves become official, the next step will be figuring out who will affiliate with which club. The Missions' PDC with the Padres runs out after 2018, as does the Brewers' PDC with both Colorado Springs and Helena. That's also the case with Round Rock's affiliation with the Rangers and Fresno's with the Astros. The Round Rock franchise is owned by the Ryan Sanders Baseball. Owners Nolan and Reid Ryan have ties to the Astros, so it would make sense for the Express to potentially switch its affiliation to the Astros, while San Antonio could become a Rangers' affiliate. That could leave the Brewers' Triple-A franchise to link up with Fresno while the Padres could end up as Amarillo's Double-A affiliate.

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