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Fayetteville/MiLB match surfaces again

Carolina League logoWith a High Class A Carolina League team potentially on the move, the idea of a new downtown ballpark in Fayetteville (N.C.) is once again being raised by locals.

As you’ll recall, last summer Fayetteville officials and local business investors raised the idea of a new downtown ballpark. Now, with the potential of an available MiLB team, the idea is being raised again. But a return of MiLB to Fayetteville is far from a done deal, and many dominoes need to fall before a first shovel of dirt is overturned.

Let’s get back and address that potential Carolina League team. Its availability is far from a done deal, but here’s the scenario. Currently the Binghamton Mets (Class AA; Eastern League) and Main Street Baseball are in mediation over the potential sale of the team; Main Street Baseball says it had an agreement to buy the team, while the B-Mets say they were merely negotiating. If Main Street Baseball ends up with the B-Mets, a move to Wilmington, Del., is next. That would trigger a sale of the Wilmington Blue Rocks (High Class A; Carolina League) to the Texas Rangers, who would need to find a new home for the franchise in 2016. That new home, reportedly, is Kinston, a former Carolina League market. But no one sees Grainger Stadium as a permanent home for Minor League Baseball: Kinston is a small market (Lenoir County’s population is 58,914, and you need to go a long ways out to hit a 100,000 market population), and Grainger Stadium is a short-term fix.

Which leaves open the distinct possibility that the Rangers would entertain offers for a new home for the team. Enter Fayetteville, which is a larger market (200,439 in 29014) and has a track record of supporting baseball in recent years, as evidenced by the popularity of the Fayetteville SwampDogs (summer collegiate; Coastal Plain League).

Mark Cryan, who worked for the Fayetteville Generals and helped launch the Coastal Plain League, has lots of stories about Fayetteville baseball in his book, Cradle of the Game.

Now, all of this talk about a downtown Fayetteville ballpark is preliminary — something advocates admit. Fayetteville has changed a lot in recent years: downtown has been cleaned up and there’s been a growth of the economy independent of military spending. But if a team becomes available, you can bet that talk accelerates.

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