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San Antonio looking at AAA ball, upgradeable ballpark

San Antonio MissionsAs heard at the Winter Meetings: San Antonio business leaders are looking to put together a plan for a downtown Triple-A ballpark that could be expanded into an MLB facility someday.

Rackspace’s Graham Weston and other downtown business and political leaders (including Judge Nelson Wolff, for whom Wolff Stadium is named) are looking at a downtown redevelopment plan that includes a 10,000-seat ballpark. Things are still at the conceptual stage and could easily end up as being a smaller new ballpark for the San Antonio Missions (Class AA; Texas League). Some in San Antonio see the city as a major-league market, so moving up to Triple-A makes sense in their eyes. Still, things are still very much in the conceptual stage.

San Antonio isn’t the only city where an upgradable ballpark was on the books: Las Vegas officials and former Las Vegas 51s (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) ownership explored the logistics several years ago, and when the Montreal Expos franchise was seeking a new home, Norfolk’s Harbor Park was eyed for upgrades.

It’s difficult to design an upgradable facility, from what we’re told by ballpark designers. The last time it was done was the construction of Met Stadium, where a three-level grandstand opened in 1958 as the home of the American Association’s Minneapolis Millers. At that time both Minneapolis and St. Paul built facilities that could in theory be expanded for MLB: the AA’s St. Paul Saints played out of the original Midway Stadium (not the current Saints facility). When the Twins came to town in 1961, Calvin Griffith and local business leaders made the decision to play out of the Met. The grandstand was extended on each side; when the Minnesota Vikings became popular, a two-story grandstand in left field was constructed. The result was a hodge-podge of structures, all requiring their own entrances and management.

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