Is a perceived uptick in the economy leading to more discussions of new ballparks? Those in the baseball industry know times are tough out there, as teams focus more on incremental upgrades rather than new facilities. Now, we're not going to get into a philosophical discussion of the best time to tackle a public project, but it appears that other folks are thinking about new-ballpark endeavors in Hagerstown, Baton Rouge, Tallahassee and California.Is a perceived uptick in the economy leading to more discussions of new ballparks? Those in the baseball industry know times are tough out there, as teams focus more on incremental upgrades rather than new facilities. Now, we're not going to get into a philosophical discussion of the best time to tackle a public project, but it appears that other folks are thinking about new-ballpark endeavors.
In Hagerstown, the prospective new owners of the Hagerstown Suns (Low Class A; Sally League) are already talking new ballpark. That's a pretty bold move, considering the purchase from Mandalay Baseball isn't final and the group hasn't yet received approval from MiLB or MLB to purchase the team. The Suns play at Municipal Stadium, one of the older ballparks still used in pro baseball, but we've been told pretty regularly that the Suns are routinely profitable thanks to a slim front office and tight cost controls. Both, of course, could go out the window in a new ballpark. A new ballpark would be a long shot: previous owners Andy Rayburn and Mandalay Baseball tried for years to convince city officials to build a ballpark and failed. Maybe the local ownership will help.
The future of the Huntsville Stars (Class AA; Southern League) could hinge on whatever community builds a new ballpark. Some folks in Huntsville have been pushing a new downtown ballpark to replace The Joe, but those efforts have gone nowhere. Now we're told team ownership has been talking with officials from Tallahassee and a Baton Rouge-area parish about new ballparks. Both markets would be a challenge: any pro team would instantly be playing second fiddle to a strong college program playing in a relatively new ballpark. And it's not as though others have made overtures to either city: there's been efforts to bring a Class A Florida State League team to Tallahassee (the response from the city: we have no money) and a Class AA team to Baton Rouge by none other than Nolan Ryan and family. Whether or not there are actual ballparks on the horizon or whether this is a negotiating ploy to spur action from Huntsville officials remains to be seen.
There's also talk of ballpark activity in the Cal League as well. And, of course, we covered proposals for new ballparks in Mequon, Wis., and Wilmington, N.C., this past week. So while the bad economy in the last several years has hampered new-ballpark construction, it looks like folks are optimistic enough to be talking again. Which is a start.
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