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Archives: April 21-27, 2008

Archives: April 21-27, 2008Dodgers announce ambitious upgrade plan for Dodger Stadium
Posted April 24, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt unveiled a $500-million development outside Dodger Stadium that will forever change the view from most of the seats in the grandstand. The centerpiece of the plan is a new development beyond the outfield pavilions will include a grand promenade, retail, restaurants, team offices, a Dodgers Hall of Fame, and entertainment offerings designed to bring Dodgers fan earlier to the ballpark (Los Angeles fans are notorious late arrivers to games) and to the Dodger Stadium grounds year-round, according to Dodgers officials supplying us with a summary. The project is expected to be finished by 2012. Despite its presence in a bustling metropolis, the 46-year-old Dodger Stadium site is one of the most bucolic in the majors, and placing what amounts to being an entertainment district beyond the outfield pavilions will be a little disconcerting for those of us who grew up with the view of trees from the grandstand; it might make more sense to place the development in a less obtrusive area, like behind the grandstand. The project is expected to displace 2,000 parking spots; hence the need for two parking ramps, which will have some levels underground in order to minimize its impact. The parking lots will also be altered to better facilitate fan movement and encourage to park in the parking ramp. This will be quite the chance for Dodgers fans; it wasn’t that long ago they could park close to their entrance, making for a shorter walk then today.

Tampa Bay stays undefeated in Orlando
Posted April 24, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
A crowd of 8,989 was on hand at Orlando’s Champion Stadium last night to see the Tampa Bay Rays defeat the Toronto Blue Jays, 5-3. It was the fifth win in as many games played in Tampa Bay’s home away from home, as the Rays swept Texas last season. It was probably a little smaller crowd than the Rays were hoping for — after all, the team is off to a good start, and there’s no other chance for baseball in Orlando besides this — but if more fans don’t show up to a rather pleasant ballpark, you can expect the Rays to end the games next season.

No danger of losing Safeco Field moniker: Mariners
Posted April 24, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Despite the purchase of Safeco by Liberty Mutual, there’s no danger of Safeco Field losing its moniker, according to Safeco officials. The biggest reason: the Safeco name isn’t going away (it works largely on the retail side and fills a product-offering gap for Liberty Mutual), so the branding aspects for Safeco remain the same as before the purchase.

Silver Hawks sign new lease, will invest in ballpark
Posted April 24, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The South Bend Silver Hawks (Low Class A; Midwest League) signed another one-year lease for Coveleski Stadium that includes the same base rent — $75,000 — but lowers the bar for additional payments based on attendance. After the Silver Hawks reach 150,000 fans the city will begin receiving $.25 per ticket sold. The team will also spend $200,000 on capital improvements to the ballpark, most of which will be routine. New this season: seven new portable concession points of sale, which should relieve lines at the main concession stands. More from the South Bend Tribune.

Jocketty replaces Krivsky as Reds’ GM
Posted April 24, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Former St. Louis Cardinals GM Walk Jocketty replaces Wayne Krivsky as general manager of the Cincinnati Reds. Not a surprise. Here are the four reasons why the move was made: a) the Reds never got better under Krivsky; b) he made some pretty bad trades; c) attendance was flat; and d) the successful Jocketty was available and ready for action. Krivsky says his development of the farm system should have been enough for him to keep his job; he wasn’t pleased with the firing.

Ballpark Notes
Posted April 24, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Thanks to a deal with Interactive Broadcast Network Sports (iBN Sports), Southern Illinois Miners fans will be able to watch and listen to all 96 Miners games live over the Internet this season. "This partnership will be great for the organization and our fans," Miners General Manager Tim Arseneau said. "Not only will it be great for Miners fans who can’t make it out to every single game, but the exposure will help our players too." The Miners are the first team in the Frontier League to have video webcasts available for all of its games. The webcasts will feature live video from the game along with the voice of Miners radio play-by-play announcer Scott Gierman…..St. Paul Saints (independent; American Association) games will return to KSTC-TV, Channel 45 and the Saints Cable Network in 2008. All eight Saturday home games will appear on Channel 45 plus the American Association All-Star Game on Tuesday, July 22. That game will also be picked up in other American Association markets. Ron Johnson will handle the play-by-play duties on all nine Channel 45 broadcasts and will handle field-level reporting duties during all other games. Joining him in the booth will be former Red Sox pitcher Dana Kiecker, entering his 16th season as color commentator for the Saints.

Tiger Stadium demolition OK’d; could baseball return?
Posted April 23, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Detroit’s Economic Development Corp. awarded a contract to two firms to demolish 75 percent of Tiger Stadium, leaving behind the portion of the grandstand between the dugouts. The demolition by MCM Management Corp. and the Farrow Group will come at no charge to the EDC, a city-affiliated agency; the firms will attempt to turn a profit on the sale of scrap metal from the 96-year-old facility. The fate of the remaining portion of the ballpark rests with the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy, which has until June 1 to come up with $369,000 to save the remnant. (One question: when portions of Tiger Stadium were sold off in a memorabilia auction, we were told the proceeds — almost $200,000 — would go toward defraying the cost of demolishing the ballpark. Now we learn the demolition will cost the city nothing. So where did that memorabilia money go? By all rights it should be applied to Tiger Stadium renovations, not be shuttled off into some other city account.) If the money is not raised, then the City Council could authorize the demolition of the entire facility. Meanwhile, a plan to bring baseball back to Tiger Stadium is quietly floating around the baseball world. An established minor-league operator (we’re not really at liberty to say who) is looking at putting a summer-collegiate Northwoods League team into the renovated facility. The Detroit Tigers have killed plans for affiliated and independent teams playing at Tiger Stadium, but the Northwoods League probably wouldn’t be seen as a threat, and there’s a great PR link: Tigers star Curtis Granderson once played in the summer-college circuit. Talk on this front is extremely preliminary.

Tampa Bay ballpark status: From simple to complicated in 30 seconds
Posted April 22, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Well, maybe not 30 seconds — but a lot quicker than anyone really anticipated. The first signs of trouble came last Friday when the city of St. Petersburg raised some objections to the current design of a proposed new $450-million waterfront ballpark for the Tampa Bay Rays on the Al Lang Field site. The Rays front office parried that quickly, saying changes could indeed be made in the design to address those concerns. But now the very financial underpinnings of the plan are coming apart, as Pinellas County officials — whose profile regarding the ballpark deal had been low, to say the least — now say they’re not willing to divert tax revenues away from any Tropicana Field redevelopment toward a new ballpark. There does seem to a little confusion about exactly what the Rays are asking for — Pinellas County officials make it sound like they do not want existing property-tax revenues going to the ballpark, while the Rays are hinting at a form of tax-increment financing based on the increased revenues expected from the redevelopment. One idea being floated: use and extend the hotel tax currently used to pay off Tropicana Field bonds. But that idea has its critics as well. It will be an interesting May for the Tampa Bay front office: something during the month the team will present an actual financing plan with real numbers and real sources of revenue — and the more specific the ballpark plan the more it will be criticized.

First new ballpark proposal surfaces in Richmond
Posted April 22, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
A former city manager of Richmond — and a confidante of Mayor Doug Wilder, to boot — has submitted a plan to redevelop the city’s North Boulevard area with an 8,000-seat ballpark as a featured attraction. As you’ll recall, the Richmond Braves (Class AAA; International League) are slated to leave the city at the end of the season for Georgia’s Gwinnett County. After the International League releases the territory, several teams are expected to put in their bid for the territory, and a new ballpark is sure to be part of the equation, as there’s general consensus the 12,000-seat Diamond isn’t suitable for the long haul. (In fact, the plan calls for the demolition of The Diamond.) The proposal, submitted in mid-February before it was announced the R-Braves would leave town, comes from Robert Bobb and an unnamed set of investors calls for a megadevelopment featuring a KEi Architects-designed ballpark (which would be the perfect size for a Class AA Eastern League team), a tennis complex, a new arena and 373,000 square feet of retail and hotel space. The project would be funded by private investment, with the city providing the land and some form of tax-increment financing. Despite the timing of the submission to the city, Bobb and his group want to pursue the development, and we’ve been told the size and scale of the ballpark could change depending on the team moving to Richmond. The city’s not talking about the proposal, and we’ve been told there’s more than one plan before Richmond officials; this just happens to be the one leaked to us. Do the math: A Class AA team owned by an outfit with a stated preference for participating in larger-scale ballpark-village-like projects would be a perfect partner in this development, which could lead to an interesting political situation in minor-league baseball given the stated preference by St. Pete to avoid a bidding war for the territory a la Greenville, S.C.

Omaha, NCAA exchange numbers for new-ballpark spoils
Posted April 22, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The folks in Omaha must expect a new downtown ballpark will just be spouting money, as a meeting yesterday between city officials and NCAA leaders featured discussions of how the two entities would split the proceeds of things like naming-rights sales, suite rentals and advertising revenues. We continue to question the feasibility of the financial plan for the $140-million project, which calls for a new 24,000-seat ballpark and the eventual sale and demolition of Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium. The numbers thrown out by Omaha officials in an attempt to woo the NCAA into a 25-year-lease are interesting: for instance, we were told upwards of $300,000 annually from naming rights alone could go to the NCAA if the sale is facilitated by the organization to an existing partner, which we presume would include lots of signage at the ballpark and other perks. Omaha officials are budgeting $750,000 annually from the sale of naming rights (which in and of itself may be a high number), so giving away a large chunk of it presumably would impact the bottom line somewhere else. (Interestingly, the impression we get from the NCAA side is that they never went into this looking for a huge payout; rather, they were seeking more revenues from the concession and premium-seating sides — that is, money generated directly from the event itself and not from the ongoing operations of the ballpark.) And don’t get us started about the feasibility in raising over $53 million in private donations. The other variable is the participation of the Omaha Royals (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), which certainly is not a given. If Omaha officials continue to promise more and more revenue to the NCAA, that means less is available in any O-Royals lease deal — and we continue to hear the ownership has a hankering for Vancouver. Despite the sell from Omaha officials, the NCAA still isn’t ready to make a long-term commitment to the new ballpark: talk is cheap, and some of the numbers thrown around by Omaha officials need to be put to paper for an honest evaluation. At some point Omaha officials need to realize they are just bidding against themselves to retain the College World Series, but apparently they’re not yet at that point. Meanwhile, some Omaha residents continue to be upset about Mayor Mike Fahey’s ballpark plan and have organized a recall petition drive; today is the deadline for submitting petitions to City Hall.

Canaries to make history by offering deep-fried turkey testicles at ballpark
Posted April 22, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Rarely are we so close to history in the making. The Sioux Falls Canaries (independent; American Association) are angling to become the first team in baseball history to offer deep-fried turkey testicles at the ballpark. Fowl Balls (yup, that’s the name) are marketed by Dakota Provisions, and the testicles will be sold with a side of dipping sauce. Now, we know other teams offer deep-fried testicles — the Colorado Rockies famously sell Rocky Mountain oysters at Coors Field — but we’re not quite so sure of the appeal of turkey testicles. They probably taste like chicken.

MLB teams plan Earth Day celebrations
Posted April 22, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Conservation is a big deal for MLB teams these days, so it’s no surprise more than a few have events planned for Earth Day today. As you’ll recall, the Cincinnati Reds were the first team in baseball to go carbon neutral: On Opening Day the Reds purchased from Carbon Solutions Group credits called Voluntary Emission Reductions (VER), which are used to fund energy projects that help reduce the amount of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere. So that put Great American Ball Park in the MLB lead. (Yes, the Reds were the first, despite a press release from Seattle claiming to be first. Then again, we can see how many lazy journalists there are out there — they’re the ones mimicking the inaccurate press release.) The Reds are repeating that Opening Day feat by going carbon-neutral again today. We don’t want to diminish what the Mariners are doing by going carbon-neutral today at Safeco Field, however. And, of course, the San Francisco Giants already celebrated Earth Day with an event last week at AT&T Park.

Funderburg resigns as Grizzlies GM; will join D-League
Posted April 22, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Tony Funderburg, whose outrageous good offerings helped the Gateway Grizzlies (independent; Frontier League) garner national headlines and set league attendance records, has resigned his GM post to take the position of GM with a new Reno NBA D-League team in Reno, Nevada. He’s being replaced by assistant GM Steve Gomric.

St. Pete raises objections to Rays ballpark plan
Posted April 21, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Tampa Bay Rays were a little surprised late Friday by a report from the city of St. Petersburg criticizing the design of a proposed new $450-million waterfront ballpark on the Al Lang Field site. The criticism was to the extent that it’s likely the Rays will need to alter their ballpark plans to a certain degree. Some are easily addressable (the city doesn’t think there’s as much available parking within walking distance of the ballpark as the Rays project; the clear answer is a parking ramp), but others (such as the assertion that the location of the new Rays offices would negatively impact the city’s arts district) may require huge changes. For their part, the Rays front office said they could address the criticisms.

T-Bones withdraw controversial plan to outfit players in prison garb
Posted April 21, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Apparently we weren’t the only ones to object to a plan where the Kansas City T-Bones (independent; Northern League) planned on outfitting players in prison garb as part of a Michael Vick promotion. The T-Bones decided to drop the plan for the prison wear after an outcry from Kansas City African-American leaders and officials with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. The emphasis on the promotion will be pet adoption and care. "It was not our intent to be culturally insensitive. For those who may have been offended, we sincerely apologize," said T-Bones General Manager Rick Muntean. "We simply want to raise awareness for what we think are great causes. We recognize that the health and well-being of animals is a widely-supported cause of our fan base, so, we’re going to keep that our only focus." We criticized the T-Bones when they announced the promotion, so it’s only appropriate to praise them for doing the right thing in response to the criticism. Here’s a great column from Jason Whitlock explaining why the promotion was so offensive.

Minnesota Ballpark Authority authorizes $1 million in infrastructure spending
Posted April 21, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Minnesota Ballpark Authority taketh away and the Minnesota Ballpark Authority giveth. Initial planning for a new downtown Minneapolis ballpark for the Minnesota Twins called for $10 million in improvements to the surrounding area as part of the development, but that money was diverted when cost estimates came in a little high. However, with investments done by the Minnesota Ballpark Authority exceeding expectations, the board decided to put a little money of that back — $1 million, to be exact. The spending won’t be glamorous (it will be spent on streets and parking ramps, probably).