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O-Royals, Sarpy County reach initial agreement on new ballpark

The two sides enter into an exclusive negotiating period.
The Omaha Royals (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) and Sarpy County are entering into an exclusive negotiating period regarding a new ballpark for the team. The pair have been negotiating for the past few months about funding and scope of a project.

For the Royals, it means the team will be staying in the market, albeit in a suburban location. The O-Royals currently play at Rosenblatt Stadium, but that facility is slated to be torn down once a new downtown ballpark for the College World Series opens. The management of that new facility and the O-Royals ownership could not reach agreement on a lease, leading the O-Royals to seek a new home. After negotiating with Sugar Land, Texas officials over a new ballpark there — voters approved $25 million in funding in last month’s elections — the O-Royals obviously found a better deal existed in Sarpy County.

Speaking of Sugar Land: the decision by the O-Royals probably means the new ballpark will be inhabited by an independent American Association team headed by Mark Schuster, who also owns Grand Prairie and El Paso franchises in that circuit.

Here’s the full press release:

Omaha Royals president Alan Stein today announced that he has agreed, in principle to a memorandum of understanding with Sarpy County regarding the construction of a new baseball stadium. Following a news conference today with Sarpy County Administrator Mark Wayne, Stein said all signs appear positive that the Royals and Sarpy County can continue to move forward in finding financing for the ballpark.

“Today’s agreement in principle with Sarpy County to go forward in terms of building a ballpark in the Omaha metropolitan area for the Omaha Royals is a significant first step,” Stein told reporters. “As I have said on many previous occasions, the Omaha Royals is committed to the Greater Omaha area and it is our desire to stay in the area and play ball here for many years to come. We are excited to have the strong relationships we have with our fans and sponsors and are encouraged that we are moving forward. This is only a first date, not an engagement… but it’s a good first date.”

Stein did add a word of caution, saying that the final agreement is a long way off. He emphasized that this has to be right for Sarpy County as well as right for the Royals.

“It is our intent to retain an affiliation with the Omaha Royals for the greater metro area and we continue to move toward that end,” said Mark Wayne, Sarpy County Administrator. “Our next step is to ensure the financial commitment that a building project of this size will require. We appreciate the Royals commitment to the Omaha area and are happy that they want to be partners in this deal,” Wayne continued.

The Memorandum of Understanding is expected to be on the agenda for a vote by the full Sarpy County board at its meeting on Tuesday, December 9th.