Northern League Commissioner Clark Griffith was in Topeka last week to scout out potential ballpark sites and meet with potential investors.Northern League Commissioner Clark Griffith was in Topeka last week to scout out potential ballpark sites and meet with potential investors. After the city made a big push to attract minor-league baseball earlier this year, the effort seems to have stalled, and City Hall seems content to work with outside investors while providing tax-increment financing. Griffith says he’s closing in on private investors and will seek nonmonetary assistance from the city. We’re not so sure there are a lot of private investors in Topeka looking to put $15 million into a new ballpark, whether it houses a Northern League team or an American Association team (and, in fact, we’re told American Association officials are doubtful there’s any potential ownership group in Topeka, which accounts for their recent lack of interest in the market).
Clark’s track record in bird-dogging markets hasn’t been good lately, either. In Burnsville, no work has been done on a ballpark Griffith says will be open for the 2009 season; we’ve already had a first snowfall in Minnesota, and although we’ve heard some good things about the potential ownership group, the fact is that no plan has been submitted to city officials and a required environmental impact study has not been started. The plan for a Burnsville ballpark has been scaled back to the $15-$20-million range for the 2010 season, and the potential owners have still not lined up financing. (Indeed, the end play may to be persuade the Burnsville group to take the plunge and operate a road team next season.) In Waukesha, Wis., where Griffith once promised a Northern League franchise, the city has opted to approve a Northwoods League ballpark. Still, the Northern League hasn’t released a 2009 schedule, so anything is possible.
More from the Topeka Capital-Journal, which probably should double-check assertions about Jimmy Buffett playing concerts in Northern League ballparks — he hasn’t.