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Elmore buys back Bakersfield Blaze

Bakersfield BlazeAs expected, D.G. Elmore exercised his option to buy back the Bakersfield Blaze (High Class A; California League) from Gene Voiland and Chad Hathaway, though the future of the team is still up in the air.

Elmore, owner of the Elmore Sports Group, sold the franchise to Voiland and Hathaway in March 2012, and the pair immediately embarked on an effort for a privately financed ballpark, while spending money upgrades to Sam Lynn Ballpark for the 2013 season. Alas, the pair were able to raise $18 million of the $25 million needed for a new ballpark (though some other revenue streams, such as naming rights, were reportedly not part of the $18 million total) and pulled the plug on fundraising.

“I had every hope that Gene and Chad would build a great new ballpark for the Bakersfield community,” Elmore said in a press statement. “Since they were unable to complete that ballpark project and chose not to pay a loan that was due to me for the purchase of the team, I have decided to move back into control of this storied franchise in a tremendous city, and I’m extremely excited to see what the future holds.”

The front office will remain the same. General Manager Elizabeth Martin has been with the club since October, 2010, and has helped oversee both ballclub operations and ownership transitions. Along with her staff, Martin has orchestrated the turnaround at Sam Lynn Ballpark with cleaner facilities, increased promotions, a fan-friendly environment and knowledgeable employees. “Working with D.G. Elmore in 2011 was easy and enjoyable,” said Martin, of her first owner in Bakersfield. “Gene Voiland and Chad Hathaway have been fabulous mentors in business, as well, and the community should take solace that the team is in extremely capable hands, regardless of what the ‘Ownership’ page on the website reads. Everything that the city has grown to love about the organization over the last two to three years will stay exactly the same, and we will continue to add going forward.”

The team will continue to play at the remodeled Sam Lynn Ballpark. The first issue Elmore will address, we presume, will be determining whether the Voiland/Hathaway plan can be revived. Any new ballpark will need to privately financed: with the state ending local redevelopment agencies and Bakersfield officials looking to trim essential services to the bone with cutbacks, there’s no appetite locally for general-fund financing of a ballpark. If the plan can’t be revived, look for a move of the Blaze to the High Class A Carolina League to be a hot topic at December’s Winter Meetings.

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