The Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority (MECA) has announced plans for an independent American Association team for the new downtown Omaha College World Series ballpark, beginning in 2011.
The announcement is still rather speculative: there’s no owner in place. In fact, MECA officials say they and the American Association will both be looking for an owner for the team.
Which makes us a little skeptical about the announcement. As you can see from previous articles (go to the bottom of the page for a list), MECA has been under a lot of criticism for scaling back retail in the new ballpark and not working more with local businesses on a traffic flow. By saying they are working to add an American Association team — even if one does not transpire — MECA is able to say it’s working to make the new ballpark a going concern past the two weeks of the College World Series.
Another reason we’re skeptical: we don’t see how the numbers can work for an indy team forced out of its home during prime dates and subject to a lease where the most lucrative revenue streams (concessions, suites) are totally controlled by the landlord. MECA couldn’t make the numbers work in an effort to retain the Omaha Royals (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), so we’re not sure they can work for indy ball.
One final reason for our skepticism: indy and minor-league baseball generally don’t mix. We can’t think of an instance where indy ball and minor-league baseball survive in the same market; the last time it was tried was in Jackson, Miss., where the indy team pulled up roots after a single year. With the Omaha Royals slated to work on a ballpark deal in suburban Sarpy and seemingly settled on staying in the market, it’s hard to see how much will be left on the table for any indy team playing before 20,000 empty seats on a regular basis.