Keith Tkachuk is so eager to see an independent American Association team in Fort McMurray that he’s willing to spring for it, with or without local investors.
The former GM of the Edmonton Capitals (independent; North American League) was in WInnipeg to pitch league officials on the Fort McMurray market and why it would be perfect for independent baseball. And while he’s pitched investors on the notion as well, none have signed up — yet.
“My goal was to be the guy to bring some key stakeholders together, but I am prepared to make it my team,” Tkachuk told the Edmonton Journal. “We are committed to Fort McMurray.”
It’s hard to see Fort McMurray being considered on its own as an American Association market: to work, we’re told, at least four teams in the region need to be viable. The American Association — or rather, several of its teams while playing under the independent Northern League banner before a split — already has experience with including Alberta teams as part of the mix, when both Edmonton and Calgary were in the league. It’s not an especially good memory, to be honest: the daunting distance between those two cities and the nearest league outpost, Winnipeg, made for some long and expensive road trips, and some bad ownership didn’t help matters. And while ownership issues have been settled in Edmonton, where the Capitals are owned by Rexall Sports and Entertainment — which also owns the Edmonton Oilers (NHL) — things are wide open in Calgary. There’s also the issue of a fourth western Canada market (or lack thereof).
And Fort McMurray, well, is really remote, some five and a half hours from Edmonton, almost nine hours from Calgary and more than 19 hours from Winnipeg. Fort McMurray is remote even by Canadian standards, much less North American bus-league standards. While we’ve seen population estimates of 250,000 or so tossed around for the area, the census pegs the regional population at just a little over 100,000. The logistics of air travel are daunting: only two airlines fly to the local airport (WestJet and Air Canada) from a limited number of cities (Edmonton, Toronto, Calgary). Between the location and the limited nature of the ballpark — it will feature only 2,300 seats if construction is approved for 2014 or 2015 (estimates seem to vary), with room for more than 5,000 more on berms — we’re guessing it will be a long time before we see American Association baseball in Fort McMurray.
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