After calls to tear it down, Canton’s Thurman Munson Memorial Stadium is not only thriving, it’s turning away teams wanting to play at the former pro facility.
Situations like this are a good reason why old ballparks — or any old building, for that matter — should never be torn until a solid alternative use for the site arises. In the case of Munson Stadium, the ballpark sat empty while city officials debated a future use. One potential outcome involved converting the ballpark to a greyhound racetrack (a sport on the wane and exists in states like Florida as cover for slots and poker). But city officials held firm until the Ohio Men’s Senior Baseball League (OMSBL) stepped up to lease the facility.
The OMSBL stepped up to install a second field at the ballpark (at a cost of $100,000) and is looking at adding a third. Meanwhile, the organization is renovating restrooms and concessions. The ballpark now breaks even for the city, and profits are projected for the future:
Additional fields will allow the stadium to host more tournaments throughout the year. Joe Sidor, CEO of the OMSBL, said the stadium is used so much that teams or leagues that want to rent it are sometimes turned away. Additional fields will allow the stadium to host as many as 160 tournament games this year, double what it hosted in 2013.
In 2011, Canton leased the facility for $1 year to the OMSBL, which, in exchange for revenue, manages and maintains the stadium, including paying utility bills and employee wages. OMSBL also agreed to pay for the stadium’s redevelopment. The city recently extended OMSBL’s contract through 2020.
Its agreement with the city calls for it to keep the first $25,000 of profit, while the city would take in anything between $25,000 and $50,000. The entities are supposed to split net profit above $50,000. Sidor said the stadium has not reached a profit-sharing phase yet. Instead, the league is investing all revenue back into the stadium, which Sidor said bodes well for city residents.
The lesson: once a ballpark or an old facility is torn down, it can never be brought back. In Canton’s case, a ballpark that lost pro ball in 1996 now has new life hosting 40 adult leagues and several high-school and college teams in a way that involves community commitment.
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