Progress is being made on new and renovated facilities in Beloit and Burlington, Vt., though nothing is yet committed to paper.
The recession has certainly put a damper on ballpark construction and renovation, but we're getting some signals that the pursestrings in some cities may be loosening, as teams playing in low-end facilities may be on target for relief.
In Wisconsin, the Beloit Snappers (Low Class A; Midwest League) have been evaluating two ballpark proposals, one priced at $35 million and one priced at $15 million. Both would meet pro baseball standards, but obviously there's a wide difference in terms of amenities. Still, it's remarkable that the team is in a position to be seeking serious propositions for a ballpark: the team has had many false starts on new facilities in recent years and is perpetually rumored to be on the move. The Snappers ownership has made do for a long time with a facility kept together with duct tape and TLC, so a new ballpark would be a welcome move. Still up in the air: funding, including the status of a bequest from a local resident.
In Burlington, Vt., the issue is the condition of Centennial Field, which does not meet pro baseball standards; the Vermont Lake Monsters (short season; NY-Penn League) have received waivers in recent years because of the condition of the ballpark, one of the oldest still in use in pro baseball. Lake Monsters ownership, quite honestly, have done a masterful job of whipping up public sentiment for a renovated ballpark, bringing up the threat of a franchise move even though there's virtually no chance the team would be moved for the 2010 season. There are now fans launching petition drives to save the team, and while we're not sure there's the political will in Vermont to pay $7 million for a restoration of Centennial Field, the very fact it's gaining public momentum is a huge shift.
Why do we say there's virtually no chance the team will move? Two reasons. First, as of now there's really no place for the team to go in the NY-Penn League footprint. If Connecticut does move to Richmond, the Jamestown Jammers are in line to move to Norwich. We can't see the Lake Monsters move back to Jamestown, which is not regarded as being a very good market. Burlington is the much better market. If the Lake Monsters were to move, we're guessing Miles Wolff and the independent Can-Am Association would be at the University of Vermont the next day with an offer to lease Centennial Field as it is. Giving up the Burlington market is not in affiliated baseball's best interests, so you can bet there will be no hasty move from Vermont.
In any case, talk of new and renovated facilities in these markets is good news for the baseball industry. There are some other things bubbling under the surface in other affiliated and indy leagues; stay tuned for more details.
RELATED STORIES: Lake Monsters not likely to move, despite reports to contrary
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