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Archives: July 7-13, 2008

Archives: July 7-13, 2008
Drillers ballpark funding plan approved
Posted July 11, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Tulsa City Council approved the expansion and extension of a downtown assessment zone, with part of the proceeds used to fund a new $60-million ballpark for the Tulsa Drillers (Class AA; Texas League). The council laid a few conditions on the zone and the tax plan — namely, that the city wouldn’t be responsible for any debt on the facility — but the 6-3 showed solid support for the plan. The current schedule has the new ballpark opening in the 2010 season and funding with $30 million in private donations, $25 million from the downtown assessment district and $5 million from the Drillers. More from Tulsa World.


Brewers add recliners to nation’s largest rec room
Posted July 10, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
If you grew up in Wisconsin, you remember the rec room in the basement, with the castoff recliner and soft sitting beneath an old beer light, with just a thin wood-veneer panel (no need for sheetrock here!) separating you from the furnace and water heater. The Milwaukee Brewers revived that vibe — sorta — with the addition of DreamSuite seats in center field, firming Miller Park’s standing as the world’s largest rec room. (Think about it: beer lights, some wood paneling near the Leinie’s stands and now recliners. What more do you need?) Heck, they even sold a truck manufacturer to sponsor the section, thus cementing the left-center section as a man cave of sorts. For the record: the VIP section is equipped with 24 Milwaukee Brewers DreamSeat leather reclining chairs, 42” Sharp flat panel televisions, seat covers for between games and custom signage.

River Bandits looking at more changes to Modern Woodmen Park
Posted July 10, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Quad Cities River Bandits (Low Class A; Midwest League) owners Dave Heller and Bob Herrfeldt met with Pendulum Studio’s Jonathan Cole about additional changes to Modern Woodmen Park in 2009 and 2010. As you’ll recall, the pair made some extensive changes to the ballpark for this season, including the addition of a Tiki Village, complete with a Tiki Bar and a Tiki Bed (you can see the bar in the video below), and a Field of Dreams-like cornfield. (Cole worked on the revamping of what was then John O’Donnell Stadium while at HOK Sport; he spent some time at 360 Architecture before forming his own firm, which did the new logo for the ballpark.) The moves have worked: attendance is up 64 percent despite the ballpark being closed during flooding that impacted the area about the ballpark. In the shameless plug department, we’ll be at Modern Woodmen Park on July 17 at an open bar sponsored by the River Bandits. The event is meant for season-ticket holders and purchasers of a seven-game ticket package, but we’re guessing you could sweet-talk your way into the event by calling the River Bandits front office. More from the Quad Cities Times.

Taylor named GM/CEO of new Bowling Green team
Posted July 10, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Brad Taylor has been named GM/CEO of the Bowling Green Sally League team slated to be relocated from Columbus next season. He’s currenty GM/COO of the Trenton Thunder (Class AA: Eastern League), where he’s been the last three season. The hiring reunites Taylor with Rick Brenner, GM of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Class AA; Eastern league); the pair both worked in Trenton. Brenner is an investor in the Bowling Green team. "This move is not only exciting on a professional level, but on a personal level," Brenner said. "Brad is an incredibly talented individual with a successful track record. I consider him a close friend going back to our years together in Trenton. We look forward to having Brad lead the way as we bring our brand of affordable family entertainment to Bowling Green."

Demolition of Tiger Stadium begins; donations sought for preservation
Posted July 10, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The real demolition of Tiger Stadium began yesterday, with a crowd gathered at Trumbull Avenue and the freeway entrance to view the area around the left-field bleachers come down. The current plan is to save the grandstand if the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy Group can raise enough money, and to that end the group is now soliciting donations via its Website, and Ernie Harwell and the other group leaders are stepping up their fundraising efforts. Tiger Stadium is a unique part of Americana; it opened the same day as Fenway Park and represents a long-gone baseball era. So we’d encourage you to contribute. Next week we’ll have Gary Gillette, a member of the conservancy’s board of directors, on our weekly broadcast to discuss his group’s efforts. Below is a Detroit News video of the beginning of the demolition.

Marlins lawsuit delayed; parties ordered to mediation
Posted July 10, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Judge Jeri Beth Cohen has ordered mediation in Norm Braman’s lawsuit opposing the financial deal leading to a new Florida Marlins ballpark, with the case expected to begin Monday if the two sides can’t settle. Braman, a notable opponent of public subsidies for sports facilities, says the public should have had a say in a $3 billion mega-deal that would divert some bond proceeds to the ballpark; he has offered to dismiss the lawsuit if a referendum were held. County officials have opposed a referendum. The forced mediation probably won’t yield anything, so we can expect a trial on Monday.

St. Pete council debates future of Al Lang Field site
Posted July 10, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
A St. Petersburg city councilmember is pushing for the Al Lang Field site in downtown St. Petersburg to be rezoned as parkland, virtually assuring it could never be used as the site of a $450-million waterfront ballpark for the Tampa Bay Rays. As you’ll recall, the Rays withdrew their proposal for a ballpark there, but a community task force wants to leave the site in the mix as they deliberate a possible replacement for Tropicana Dome. More from the Tampa Tribune.

Today’s video: Amazing ball-girl catch
Posted July 10, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Many of you probably saw this video and assumed it was indeed a hoax. It was more: It was a viral-marketing effort. Here’s the story from Paul Kennedy of the Fresno Grizzlies (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League): "Some of you may have seen this already, as it’s been making its way around the Internet today. For those that haven’t, this video is part of a Gatorade commercial that was filmed here at Chukchansi Park back in April. The game footage prior to the crack of the bat is real, and the voice-over is by Grizzlies’ broadcaster Doug Greenwald. The production company ‘leaked’ it onto the Internet over the weekend hoping for a viral effect, and considering the number of calls we’ve received today from all over the country, I suppose the strategy worked somewhat."

Today’s video 2: Inland Empire 66ers
Posted July 10, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Hell, as long as we’re bringing you videos let’s go all the way. The June exploits of the Inland Empire 66ers (High Class A; California League) are detailed in this video produced by the team. Video is proving to be an effective way for sports teams to promote themselves. Share your videos with the rest of the baseball community; send them to Don’t feel the need to compress them too much: we’re using a variety of video services that don’t operate under the constraints of YouTube, so we can handle videos larger than 10MB easily.

Red Sox move closer to Sarasota spring shift
Posted July 9, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Boston Red Sox made a tentative commitment to a 9,999-seat spring-training ballpark in Sarasota today, making it more likely the team will be training in that city by 2011. The tentative plan calls for a 9,999-seat ballpark, 500 berm seats, six practice fields (including one full-size field), 500 seats in 20+ suites, and a replica of the Green Monster in left field. Sarasota had sent six conceptual plans to the Red Sox; they approved the smallest one. Why? Originally a 12,000-seat ballpark was planned, but Sarasota realized a facility of that size would require state approval (the cutoff, obviously, is 10,000 seats). This doesn’t mean the Red Sox are definitely gone from Fort Myers, but it does mean Sarasota officials have approval to price out the smaller ballpark/training complex. In fact, one scenario has the Baltimore Orioles moving to Fort Myers and the existing Red Sox complex; the Orioles are on the move after announcing late last week they would not be pursuing a Fort Lauderdale Stadium makeover after the FAA held to their demands for $1.3 million in annual rent for the facility. Later today: the  Sarasota Fair will evaluate a proposal to swap its current 90-acre fair site for 40 acres in Twin Lakes Park. UPDATE: It’s pretty clear the issue will be acquiring the 90-acre fairgrounds site, as this article makes clear.

Drillers face opposition to new-ballpark financing plan
Posted July 9, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Things were obviously going too well for the Tulsa Drillers (Class AA; Texas League) in their pursuit of a new ballpark, as some businesses in Tulsa’s Greenwood District are opposing a 6.5 cent per-square-foot annual property assessment. Four cents of this assessment is slated to help pay for the new $60-million ballpark. This is an increase on the current variable assessment, and some businesses say they’ll be hit with an 800 percent increase in their assessments — an added cost in some bad economic times. There are some cultural issues here as well: the Greenwood District was once known as the Black Wall Street, and some community organizers say a ballpark doesn’t recognize the historical significance of the area. It doesn’t sound like there’s any serious or organized opposition — an informal poll showed a little more than half of the existing downtown businesses supported the ballpark plan — but some PR from the city and the Drillers is probably in order. More from Tulsa World.

Lee County offers renderings for new BoSox facility; Sarasota to review plans tomorrow
Posted July 8, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Things are coming to a head over the future spring-training home of the Boston Red Sox, as Lee County officials will review renderings and developer proposals for a new complex or renovated City of Palms Park, and the Fruitville Road Study Group, a Sarasota economic development organization, is scheduled to meet Wednesday afternoon at the Sarasota Fairgrounds, a 90-acre site foreseen by many as the potential new spring home of the Sox. Lee County officials say developers have been pitching their property as a perfect place for a new complex, and we’re guessing those offers run along the lines of, "we’ll give you the land for the ballpark and complex, you build them, and we’ll retain development rights to the rest of the property." From what we’ve been told it’s highly unlikely the BoSox would go for an offer of a new complex if Fenway Ventures didn’t have a cut of the surrounding development, so we wonder whether Lee County really has deep enough pockets to keep the Sox. (And from what we’ve been told by team officials a renovated City of Palms Park is a nonstarter: the issue is the lack of land for a complex next to the ballpark and associated development.) And, of course, Lee County really has no money to dangle, and no one in government has a plan to raise it: "I have no idea [where money for the Red Sox would come from," said Bill Hammond, deputy county manager. (Yes, the same Bill Hammond of Hammond Stadium.) "We’re so far away from this thing right now. With our economy right now I’d like to tell you this thing is on the back burner for at least a couple of years. I think we got some real pressing issues." It’s unlikely the Red Sox will wait a few years.
    Meanwhile, we are seeing some politics pop up in Sarasota, where city and county officials are hot to turn over 90 acres of prime land and some cash to the Red Sox to snare the lucrative spring-training facility. The Sarasota Fairgrounds isn’t necessarily against moving to Twin Lakes Park, but so far the offer of 45 acres there for the 90 acres on Fruitville Road isn’t seen as an equitable trade. (They’re right; it’s not.) So clearly negotiations needs to take place. More from Spring Training Online.

Report: Wrigley Field to host New Year’s Day game
Posted July 8, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Minneapolis Star Tribune is reporting a New Year’s Day NHL game hosted by the Chicago Blackhawks at Wrigley FIeld is a done deal and will be announced by the NHL team at its new fan festival next week. Wrigley Field has been mentioned quite a bit in the last few months as a potential site for a game, and we’ve been told weatherization has always been an issue, with the ballpark basically shut down after the end of the season. But it is capable of being a cold-weather venue — remember, it was the longtime home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears  — and with the first-place Cubs poised for a run in the playoffs well into October, all parties involved obviously feel weatherization won’t be an issue.


MiLB attendance continues to outpace 2007…
Posted July 8, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Minor League Baseball drew more than 8.2 million fans in June, pushing the season total to nearly 23 million. The industry’s total of 22,722,519 fans is slightly ahead of last year’s figure, when an attendance record was set for a fourth straight season.
    The 176 clubs averaged 4,005 fans for 5,674 playing dates through June, compared to 4,131 fans in 2007. The 3.1 percent decline in average is mainly due to the inclement weather that affected many clubs last month, especially those impacted by the historic floods in the Midwest.
    The Sacramento River Cats have attracted a Minor League Baseball-best 9,684 fans a game. Fellow Triple-A clubs Round Rock (9,405) and Louisville (9,114) are also averaging over 9,000 fans per opening.
    Frisco (8,413), Corpus Christi (6,815) and Springfield (6,531) of the Texas League are the top drawing Double-A clubs. Perennial Class A attendance leader Dayton (8,622) is once again pacing its classification. Brooklyn, with its 7,333 average, leads all short-season clubs.
    The Texas League is averaging 5,725 fans a game, 394 more than last year. The circuit’s average represents the largest increase (7.4 percent) over last year, among the 15 leagues. The Northwest (4.2 percent), International (3.6 percent) and Carolina (0.9 percent) leagues also showed improvement over their 2007 average crowds.

…while individual teams report attendance records
Posted July 8, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Besides the overall MiLB attendance, several teams and leagues are reported record attendance figures.
    A record throng of 15,189 packed Isotopes Park only to see the Albuquerque Isotopes (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) fall 9-6 to the New Orleans Zephyrs on Independence Day. It was the largest crowd in franchise history, shattering the old mark of 15,020 set two seasons ago.
    The York Revolution (independent; Atlantic League) used record crowds to their advantage all last week, compiling a 6-2 record in home games played against the Long Island Ducks, Newark Bears and Lancaster Barnstormers. The total number of fans through the turnstiles since June 27 totals 39,117, an eight game average of 4,890. That number includes a crowd of 6,288 on Saturday, July 5 against Lancaster, which was the largest crowd of the season in Downtown York, and the third largest in the history of Sovereign Bank Stadium. For the homestand, the Revolution drew over 5,000 fans five times. The recent outstanding fan support has raised the total number of attending Revolution fans to 145,872 through 35 home games this season, raising the average crowd to 4,168 fans per night at the Downtown ballpark. That number is 600 more fans a game than the next closest team in the Atlantic League.
    The Golden Baseball League (GBL) announced that two attendance records have been set in the last week at GBL ballparks. The GBL single-game attendance record of 7,101 set in Yuma in 2005 and the Nettleton Stadium record in Chico of 4,415 set at the GBL All-Star game in 2006 were both broken in a span of four days driven by enthusiastic national day celebrations in Edmonton and Chico. The largest crowed to ever see a GBL game occurred last week on June 30th as a Canada Day fireworks display, fabulous weather, and a hot Edmonton CrackerCats team facing archrival Calgary filled Telus Field in Edmonton with almost 8,676 fans.
    And on July 3 the largest crowd in the history of the Rockford RiverHawks (independent; Frontier League) watched Windy City starter Ross Stout pitch a five-hitter and beat the RiverHawks, 5-2. The standing room-only crowd of 6,588 at Road Ranger Stadium broke the RiverHawks record of 6,548 set on Aug. 22, 2003 at Marinelli Field for a game against Cook County, now known as the Windy City ThunderBolts.

Pima County debates future of spring training
Posted July 8, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
With the state legislature failing to approve a plan to give taxing authority to the Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority, Tucson business and political leaders begin the debate on how to keep spring training in southern Arizona. There’s the recognized need to upgrade Hi Corbett Field for the Colorado Rockies and perhaps build another spring complex in order to keep the Diamondbacks and attract another team. But so much of this effort is of a last-minute nature: from what we’ve been told it’s just a matter of when the Chicago White Sox leave Tucson, not if, and when one team leaves Tucson the two remaining teams can choose to end their leases. More from Spring Training Online and the Arizona Republic.