Fresno Grizzlies' New Ownership Group Vows Not To Move Team
After months of machinations, the sale of the Fresno Grizzlies was made official on Tuesday night during a ceremony at Chukchansi Park. The team's new owners, a trio of businessmen from Colorado who have formed the Fresno Sports and Events, also announced on Tuesday that the team has agreed to extend its lease on the stadium through 2036. The Fresno city council approved the new deal by a 7-0 vote.
“This is the right group at the right time to own the Fresno Grizzlies,” said Derek Franks, who was promoted from general manager to team president as part of the deal. “In working with them through this entire good-faith negotiation, it’s clear they are proud to be doing business in Fresno, and it’s yet another example of progressive-minded leadership that will help unleash the full potential of this downtown. We also owe many thanks to Chris Cummings and his group for their commitment and patience to make sure this transition was done correctly.”
Fresno Sports and Events, which takes over from Chris Cummings and the Fresno Sports Group, is made up of Jim Baker, Ray Baker and Jim Coufos. Ray Baker, a real estate and banking magnate from Denver, has served as the chairman of Denver's Metropolitan Stadium District, which houses the Rockies' home of Coors Field, since 1989. Despite the ties to the Rockies, the Grizzlies will not become a Rockies affiliate in the near future; the Rockies extended their Player Development Contract with the Albuquerque Isotopes through the 2020 season.
Michael Baker is the president of Gold Crown Management, a commercial real estate firm based in Denver. Coufos is a retired managing director of both the Goldman Sachs Group and its subsidiary Spear, Leeds and Kellogg.
The Grizzlies have been one of the most talked-about teams over the last several years, primarily because of the popularity of their Taco Tuesday promotion. The campaign, which dates to 2015, has featured several incarnations and a slew of merchandise and apparel. Other highlights include the team's mascot, Parker T. Bear, performing legal, binding marriages and wedding vow renewals at Chukchansi Park in each of the last two seasons, as well as the team's salute to the movie "Coming to America," which will happen this season.
But one of the new ownership group's promotions might turn out to be more popular than tacos, mascot weddings and movie tributes combined. That's right, it's discounted beer.
MLB Presents Ultimatum To Fresno: Move To Class A Or Get Dropped
In the final days of the long-running MLB-MiLB talks, MLB has presented what appears to be an ultimatum to the Fresno Grizzlies.
As part of Tuesday's announcement, the team noted that beer prices in 2018 will start at just $5, a reduction from $8 in 2017. The overall goal is to have all beers at Chukchansi Park sold for the same $5 cost. The team will also build a new hospitality area down the left-field line, and the stadium overall will open for more non-baseball events to the public. In short, the team's new ownership group is taking immediate strides to make Chukchansi Park a destination.
“As the new owners of this team, and newcomers to the Central Valley, we expect to have to earn your trust, and we will,” Michael Baker said. “We’re welcoming in as many non-profit groups as we can, to truly make Chukchansi Park a community gathering place all year long. Folks interested in taking advantage of the ballpark should be in touch with our community fund.
“Fan experience is of the utmost important to us. Beyond making a typical evening at Chukchansi Park more affordable, we need to make sure the Fresno Grizzlies are still leaders and trend-setters in minor league baseball with everything we do; promotions, hospitality, and helping develop future championship talent for the major league level.”