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Blaze in Bakersfield — for now

Bakersfield Blaze logoA deal for a new Bakersfield Blaze (High Class A; California League) ballpark in Salinas has been put on hold, but team owner D.G. Elmore says the city is still in play as a future home for the team.

The Salinas ballpark proposal collapsed after the sides couldn’t agree on a valuation of the land proposed for the new privately financed facility. But Elmore says Salinas could end up hosting the Blaze: “Now, it’s just a matter of some new ground,” Elmore said last week in reference to failed negotiations.

Make no mistake: Sam Lynn Ballpark isn’t the long-term home for pro baseball in Bakersfield, as we’ve heard MiLB officials have expressed great displeasure with the current state of affairs. So if pro baseball is to stay in the city — and, as a market, it’s certainly one of the better ones currently in the Cal League — a new ballpark would be needed. The issue: without community redevelopment funds available, will any California city build a new ballpark, or will the Cal League need to look beyond California for markets? Bakersfield officials seem to want to keep the team — but they don’t know how:

Rebuilding it just north of downtown would also replant a city asset far from growing population centers in the west.

But keeping the Blaze, a Cal League charter franchise, is seen as an undeniable quality-of-life and economic boost.

“I do think having a professional baseball team, even if it is a Class A, … is an amenity from an economic development standpoint,” Community Development Director Doug McIsaac said recently, adding, “I couldn’t even begin to tell you how the city or the community might be able to rectify that at this point, or to what extent there’s a level of interest to do that.”

We’ll let the team’s broadcasting director, Dan Besbris, have the final word:

“It’s never going to be a quick fix for a place like this. You can’t snap your fingers and fix it; it’s got to be a little bit every year,” he said. “There’s a common misconception that the team is trying to leave. The team is trying to find a permanent home and we would be thrilled if that were in Bakersfield. But in the meantime, we can put on the best show that we can.”

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