With the signings of a lease, license agreement and management agreement on Tuesday night, the city of Madison, Ala. and Ballcorps LLC, finalized a deal that will move the Mobile BayBears to Madison following the conclusion of the 2019 season.
“We are excited to partner with Ralph Nelson and his team," Madison mayor Paul Finley said in a release. "City council, mayor, and staff have worked earnestly to take appropriate steps for our community to ensure success in this endeavor. After a detailed feasibility study, we are assured that this venture will support not only economic development in the City of Madison, but also create revenue for our school system and infrastructure needs as well.”
In the tradition of most of the new stadiums popping up around the minors over the last decade, Madison's new ballpark is expected to be the centerpiece of a multi-use area for residential, industrial and recreational projects.
"The potential economic impact this venue can bring to our city is tremendous. We appreciate the due diligence that our council, mayor and staff have put into considering this agreement," Madison city director of planning and economic development Mary Beth Broeren said. "We hope Madison residents will use and enjoy economic, recreational and community opportunities through this development.”
Ballcorps purchased the BayBears from HWS Baseball Group in November, and plans for the new, $40 million, 7,200-seat stadium were announced shortly thereafter. The stadium's renderings, produced by Populous, were obtained by The Huntsville Times.
The BayBears' new owners must now approach the Southern League and Minor League Baseball to get the necessary permissions to move the BayBears, but it looks as if everything is in place for baseball to return to the Huntsville area for the first time since the Stars left town after the 2014 season to move to Biloxi, Miss.
The Elmore Group shuffle—which is detailed here—is well underway and took another step toward completion this month with the groundbreaking of the new stadium in Amarillo, Texas that is slated to hold a Double-A team beginning in 2019.
"It is a panhandle facility, in that it is going to benefit the entire panhandle, not just Amarillo, but we are not using any property taxes and general fund dollars," Amarillo mayor Ginger Nelson told the media at the groundbreaking. "So we are not taking away from any city services to pay for this (project), we are just using hotel occupancy tax."
The ballpark is expected to cost $48.4 million, seat 7,400 fans (plus more for standing room only) and be ready for use come opening day in 2019.
Las Vegas also has plans to break ground on a new stadium this month. The Mets are leaving town, having purchased the Syracuse Chiefs with plans to move their Triple-A club there after the 2018 season, but the 51s are sticking around. The team put shovels to dirt on Feb. 23 on what will eventually become the centerpiece of a $150 million project that will include other venues. Renderings of the stadium and the overall project, the Las Vegas Review Journal reports, are due to be released next week.
“The whole thing is a huge undertaking,” 51s president Don Logan told the newspaper. “There’s so many elements of the whole process that have to come together. Obviously you can’t get going until you have the official groundbreaking and then at that point, the architects, HOK, their plans are pretty much done. You’re going to see a number of renderings of how it’s going to come together and how neat it’s going to be.”
The Affiliation Shuffle can't begin until after the season, but plenty of teams have begun removing themselves from the proceedings by extending their PDCs for another two or more years. By our count, there are 13 teams with Triple-A teams whose PDCs expire after this season: the Diamondbacks, Orioles, Reds, Tigers, Astros, Royals, Twins, Yankees, Athletics, Mariners, Rangers, Blue Jays and Nationals.
Of those 13, we for certain know the Nationals are moving, but some others are likely to stick around. It's hard to see the Tigers leaving Toledo, the Royals leaving Omaha, the Mariners leaving Tacoma, the Reds leaving Louisville, the Orioles leaving Norfolk or the Yankees leaving Scranton.
Assuming those six stay put, that leaves Arizona, Houston, Minnesota, Oakland, Texas, Toronto and Washington to affiliate with Las Vegas. Houston and Texas seem likely to be involved with the Elmore Shuffle (see above), so let's remove those two from the mix. That leaves us with Arizona, Minnesota, Oakland, Toronto and Washington. It seems doubtful that the Blue Jays would like to return to Las Vegas after leaving there in 2012, so let's remove them from candidacy, too.
Now we're down to Arizona, Minnesota, Oakland and Washington. The Diamondbacks and A's make the most sense geographically, and the A's moving into a brand new stadium in Las Vegas would lessen the sting of leaving the gorgeous First Tennessee Park. That would free up Nashville and make it a very attractive destination for an East Coast team (the Twins, Blue Jays and Nationals in this scenario) looking for a new partner.
That's the early call here: Expect either the A's or the Diamondbacks will wind up as the first affiliate to play at the new Las Vegas Ballpark.
To Make Up For Lost Revenue, Minor League Teams Turn To T-Shirts And Chicken
Teams have found creative ways to make money without a minor league season, especially from selling t-shirts with snarky catchphrases and frozen chickens.
The Rochester Red Wings avoided a nightmare scenario earlier this week when the city reached an agreement on a new 10-year lease on Frontier Field. If the two sides had not come to an agreement, there was an alternative floating around that would have seen the Red Wings play home games at Coca-Cola Field, the home park of the Buffalo Bisons. Given the disaster that unfolded in Hartford in 2016, it seemed imperative for anything close to that situation not happen again.
"As with the previous lease, the county will receive a significant part of the revenue derived from baseball events at the stadium, Rochester Community Baseball CEO Naomi Silver said in a statement. "But in this lease, we have certain assurances that the County will maintain and modernize the stadium as necessary, and will seek outside funding sources, when possible, to help accomplish this."
To celebrate, the Red Wings held are holding a sale on Thursday and Friday at Frontier Field that features $1 hot dogs, $3 single-game tickets and 30 percent off everything in-person and online at the Red Wings' team store.