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Archives: Jan. 8-14, 2007

Archives: Jan. 8-14, 2007
Twins ballpark likely to sport modern look
Posted Jan. 12, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The new Minnesota Twins ballpark will sport a modern look. Now, if you’ve been following the design of the ballpark from the beginning, this shouldn’t be a surprise, as the earliest drawings from HOK Sport showed a ballpark with a modern design. What is a surprise is how much internal debate has taken place in the Twins’ offices over the design: Jerry Bell and Dave St. Peter have been arguing for a retro design a la Oriole Park, but the Pohlad family (owners of the Twins) has consistently held out for a distinctive modern design.
    The project is still clouded by the inability of Hennepin County and Land Partners II, a limited liability partnership with more than a hundred investors that controls part of the eight-acre ballpark site, to reach a deal. We’ve learned more about the dispute in recent days, and it’s really not as personality-driven as other media outlets would have us believe, having more to do with the zoning of the land. Basically, the city of Minneapolis extended the downtown district to the ballpark site several years ago and rezoned it from commercial to office. Because it’s zoned as office, the site has fewer restrictions when it comes to usage; in theory Land Partners II could build a skyscraper on the site — something that could not be done on a commercial property. This zoning change, according to Land Partners II, makes the land more valuable than Hennepin County says. Another factor in the disagreement: Hines Development, which had been working with Land Partners II on a development plan for the area surrounding the ballpark, has concluded the softness in the downtown Minneapolis real-estate market makes any large-scale development an iffy proposition — leading Land Partners II to shift gears and seek more funds from Hennepin County upfront.

Plan for new baseball park has sunken, realigned field
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Architects designing the new downtown ballpark for the Billings Mustangs (rookie; Pioneer League) plan to orient the playing field away from a blinding afternoon sun that can make life miserable for first basemen. But even with the replacement for Cobb Field facing a different direction, baseball fans can count on breathtaking views of the Rimrocks when the field opens in 2008. The third-base line at Cobb Field runs roughly parallel to North 27th Street. The new $12.5-million ballpark, designed by Tom Tingle of HNTB Architecture (working with CTA Architects Engineers of Billings), will feature a third-base line that’s rotated clockwise by about 10 degrees. The ballpark will feature a left-field fence 335 feet from home plate. The center field fence will be 410 feet from home, and the right-field fence will be 356 feet away, all enclosed with a wraparound concourse. (Fences presently are 335, 405 and 325 feet, respectively.) According to conceptual plans presented to the council, the playing field will be excavated to about 8 feet below street level, a money-saving design that allows easier access to the ballpark, especially for people with disabilities.

Dodgers add power with new buffet
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Right field at Dodger Stadium used to feature cheap seats. This year, there will be lots of food and seats that are no longer cheap. The Los Angeles Dodgers are converting their right-field pavilion into all-you-can-eat bleachers. Takers will have access to as many hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn, nachos and soft drinks as they want. Around 3,000 right-field seats will be sold for $35 in advance and $40 on game day with the all-you-can-eat special. Left-field tickets, meanwhile, will sell for $10. The ballpark’s cheapest seats, in the top deck, will go for $10 next season instead of $6.

Cheney Stadium to get face-lift
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More improvements are on tap for Cheney Stadium, the home of the Tacoma Rainiers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), as the Tacoma City Council approved a $1.6 million contract with Wade Perrow Construction of Gig Harbor for the work. Slated to be done this year: adding a "crown" facade atop the outside of the ballpark, installing graphics of ballplayers in action, and putting in a a wrought-iron fence, replacing the chain-link fence currently surrounding the ballpark. More work is planned for the ballpark if a state grant comes through, including revamped concessions and the addition of the multitiered patio seating.

McClatchy steps down as face of the Pirates
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Pittsburgh Pirates CEO Kevin McClatchy and Chairman of the Board Robert (Bob) Nutting have requested that an official "change of control" within the Pirates ownership group be approved by Major League Baseball. Control of the Pirates will change from Kevin McClatchy to Bob Nutting, pending approval by MLB Owners.
    McClatchy, as the club’s CEO, remains responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organization. As Chairman of the Board and control person for the team, Nutting’s role is to provide strategic leadership for the organization.
    "I am deeply and resolutely committed to the success of the Pittsburgh Pirates both on and off the field. I understand how important the Pirates are to the people of this region and I share in their passion to see this team succeed," Nutting said. "Kevin was very supportive of this change of control, and it should provide absolute clarity for our fans regarding the ownership structure of the team."

Quakes unveil 15th anniversary logo
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The 2007 California League season will be the 15th season of Quakes baseball in the Inland Empire and the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (High Class A; California League) are starting the year-long anniversary party with the unveiling of a new, 15th Anniversary logo. The anniversary logo was designed by Jonathan Mercier, the Quakes’ Director of Entertainment, who had also designed the logo for the 2007 Eastern League All-Star Game, to be hosted this July by the Connecticut Defenders, Mercier’s former club. "We wanted to come up with a special logo to commemorate an important milestone for our franchise and for baseball in Rancho Cucamonga," said Quakes Executive Vice President and General Manager Gerard McKearney. "Without a doubt Quakes fans will enjoy seeing this logo on team merchandise and giveaway items this coming season. We are looking forward to celebrating the past fourteen seasons throughout the coming year."

Oaks release renderings of Recreation Park enhancements
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The Visalia Oaks (High Class A; California League) unveiled revised plans for the two-phase $5-million renovation of Recreation Park. Before Opening Day 2007, the Oaks will add two group and hospitality areas and upgrade existing infrastructure. The second, significantly more extensive phase of the renovation, will be ready for Opening Day 2008. The second part of the project will entail modifying and expanding the grandstand, and building a new right-field entrance and concourse replete with a number of fan amenities.
    The current plan calls for a groundbreaking in early February on two innovative group entertainment areas: a nestled Dugout Suite and Hot Corner Lounge. The Dugout Suite will be a third dugout, in addition to the two provided for the teams on the field, and will provide fans with an exciting, up-close, players-eye view of the game. The Hot Corner Lounge will adjoin the Dugout Suite and will provide an intimate group experience for groups of 50-100. Both areas will be available for nightly rentals starting immediately. Other improvements for fans include renovations to the restroom and concession facilities and a planned Kids’ Play Area. Oaks players will also play under an improved, brighter lighting system, on a new playing surface and enjoy enjoy a new weight room.
    The final phase of the renovations will break ground in September 2007 to be completed for Opening Day 2008. The grandstand behind home plate will be rearranged and expanded to include enclosed luxury suites, a full shade canopy, and a brand new, state-of-the-art press box. The main entrance to the ballpark, with a dramatic two part spiral staircase will move to the right field corner and will lead to a new concourse. Several new structures, a VIP hospitality lounge, new restrooms, new concession and merchandise stands, and additional chair back seating, will sit alongside the rightfield concourse. The area beneath the souvenir shop will become the new home of the Oaks administrative offices and a large ticketing center. A grassy berm will wrap around the right field corner providing a prime destination for fans to sit on beach towels while watching the games. The Ballpark will slightly expand its footprint into Recreation Park in adding a new fan pool and kids play area in rightfield. Fans will also find a large parking lot for their convenience beyond the right field wall.
    The Ballpark Renovation Plans were principally prepared by Tom Larimer for Fehlman Labarre Architecture.

Avon nears deal with Frontier League
Posted Jan. 12, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
A Chicago-based investment group is close to a deal that would bring a Frontier League team to the city of Avon, Mayor Jim Smith said yesterday. Smith declined to give details on the possible deal but did say that the city has been in negotiations with investors interested in forming a team for the independent Frontier League that would be based in Avon and play its games at a stadium to be built at Interstate 90 and SR 611, where the city hopes to build a sports and entertainment complex. Matt Perry, a partner in the investment group, said yesterday the negotiations with the city are ”heading in the right direction” and that the group is optimistic a deal could get done, though he declined to give a timetable for an announcement. Perry said the group had also looked at the city of Lorain, which has been actively pursuing a professional baseball team, but at this point, it is focusing its efforts on Avon. Meanwhile, yesterday Lorain County commissioners agreed to donate $175,000 from the county’s Solid Waste District budget to help pay for the bleachers and roofs for the baseball park at Campana Park in Lorain.

Royals to give 81 fans view from O’Neil’s seat
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The Kansas City Royals are giving 81 people a chance to watch a game from Buck O’Neil’s seat at Kauffman Stadium. The club announced the "Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat Program" on Thursday. It will honor the Negro Leagues star who became a goodwill ambassador for the game, and also honor others for their community service. A different person will be selected to sit in O’Neil’s seat at each home game during the upcoming season, team spokesman Toby Cook said. The selection process will be based on nominations from the public. After O’Neil died Oct. 7 at age 94, team spokesman Toby Cook said, Royals officials were debating ways to honor him when club president Dan Glass suggested the legacy seat program.

More seating available for Twins spring games
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The Minnesota Twins will offer new seating areas for spring games this year, a move that couldn’t have come at a better time. Headlining the changes to Hammond Stadium: the addition of a Dugout Box section directly behind home plate, with two rows of seats stretching from dugout to dugout. Those seats will be available to season-ticket holders with priority given to fans who have owned season tickets the longest. Other significant additions: Drink Rail and Lawn Seats, located on a grass berm above the right-field line, next to Section 101. Hammond Stadium will now seat about 7,900, 400 more than in previous seasons.

PCL, IL announce extension of Bricktown Showdown in 07-08
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Pacific Coast League President Branch Rickey and International League President Randy Mobley today announced that The Bricktown Showdown — Triple-A Baseball’s Winner-Take-All Championship Game – will return to the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City following the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
    "It has been our plan all along to make Oklahoma City the home for this event,” said PCL President Branch Rickey. "The support demonstrated for the game and related activities by the professional baseball fans and corporate community in central Oklahoma in year one has made it clear that Oklahoma City is where this game belongs."
    The inaugural Bricktown Showdown game was held this past September before a near sell-out crowd of 12,572 and a national television audience. The Tucson Sidewinders (Arizona Diamondbacks affiliate) defeated the Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit Tigers affiliate) by a 5-2 score in a game that wasn’t decided until the final inning. It had been since the 2000 season that the two League Champions faced-off to determine a true champion of Triple-A Baseball.

Goodyear eyes noted ballpark designer
Posted Jan. 12, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Goodyear is negotiating with one of the nation’s biggest sports architecture firms to design a new spring-training home for the Cleveland Indians. Goodyear officials are talking with representatives of Missouri-based HOK Sport to design and engineer a 10,000-seat ballpark and spring-training complex east of Estrella Parkway between Yuma Road and Maricopa County 85. HOK’s portfolio includes design work for several athletic venues in the Valley, including University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale and spring-training facilities in Peoria and Surprise. The firm also is working on a new stadium for the New York Yankees and Nationals Ballpark for the Washington Nationals in Washington, D.C. Barton Malow, based in Michigan with a regional office in Phoenix, also could be on board as the general contractor.

Baseball may be back this summer in Springfield
Posted Jan. 12, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Springfield (Ill.) Park District officials are practically panting about a tentative five-year deal that would allow a new Central Illinois Collegiate League team to use Lanphier Park for $300 per game, starting in June. Investors in the proposed team have a history of drawing thousands of fans by selling family-style baseball with picnic areas, cheap tickets and plenty of gimmicks aimed at filling seats. Although the investment group isn’t publicly commenting, it includes Clark Eckhoff, owner of the Wisconsin Woodchucks (summer collegiate; Northwoods League). The Wisconsin group hopes to sign a deal with the park district as early as next week to use a ball field that, except for adult league, youth and high school play, hasn’t seen games since 2004, when the now-defunct Rifles played there. The Central Illinois Collegiate League, which had seven teams last season, is now down to four.

Empty ballparks can be fun, too
Posted Jan. 12, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
David Hall talks about his visit to an empty Petco Park and the joys of visiting a ballpark in the offseason: "I picture excited children racing up the entrance ramps toward their first major league game, season ticket-holders settling into their box seats, pitchers warming up, the smell of popcorn, the way the roar of the crowd fills the night air after a game-altering home run. Instead, what I see in the colder months is a ballpark the way it was blueprinted. No screaming supporters, no hot dog vendors, no kids working their way through college by yelling, ‘Programs! Get your programs!’ Nope, just a vast, immaculate, empty stadium with a swirling breeze that’s audible against the city traffic outside."

Mavericks cancel ’07 season amid ballpark negotiations
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With no agreement yet on a plan to build a $10-million ballpark on city-owned land in east Columbia, the Mid-Missouri Mavericks (independent; Frontier League) will take at least another year off from competition as officials discuss the future of the team. City leaders and one of the team’s owners said yesterday the franchise would not field a team this summer, pending further discussions with the local chapter of the American Legion about whether a new ballpark should be built off Broadway and east of Rustic Road. It would be the second season since the team took the field in 2003 for the Mavericks to call off play amid negotiations for a permanent home for the franchise.

Aiken awarded initial SCL All-Star Game
Posted Jan. 12, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The independent South Coast League of Professional Baseball will hold its inaugural All-Star game at Aiken’s Roberto Hernandez Stadium on Sept. 5. The South Coast League’s All-Star festivities will take place over a two-day period. On September 4, there will be a player showcase in which all MLB scouts will be invited to attend. In the afternoon, there will be a Fan Fest, with food, entertainment, giveaways, autograph sessions, and various activities for fans of all ages. This will be followed by a Home-Run Derby featuring many of the SCL’s top homerun hitters from the regular season. The night will conclude with an awards banquet. Here, SCL officials will present numerous awards, including the MVP, Pitcher of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, and top Executive as well as recognition of the South Coast League Champions. The first annual SCL All-Star game will take place on Wednesday night, September 5th. More information on tickets for Fan Fest, Home-Run Derby, and the All-Star game will become available at a later date.

Canaries seek $200,000 to remodel locker room
Posted Jan. 12, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Sioux Falls Canaries (independent; American Association) has asked the city of Sioux Falls to pitch in $200,000 to remodel the visitors’ locker room at Sioux Falls Stadium in time for a July all-star game. City Council members, however, aren’t willing to spend the money without some negotiation. The council heard the proposal this week. Work on the renovation would need to start this spring for a July completion, requiring the council to amend this year’s capital improvement budget. A $5.6 million renovation, completed in 2000, didn’t include the visitors’ locker room that dates back to the mid-1960s. Officials say its 12-inch lockers and pedestal showers are woefully out of date.

Owner says building by ballpark is being sold
Posted Jan. 12, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
After six years of promises to turn a vacant building at Monroe and Huron streets next to Fifth Third Field, the home of the Toledo Mud Hens (Class AAA; International League) into a restaurant, Toledo businessman and newspaper editor Myron Stewart put the building up for sale — for $360,000 more than he paid Lucas County for it. The decision irked a few county officials, who say Stewart was less than forthcoming about his real intentions for the property.

Ballpark Notes
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