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Telus Field demolition debated

Edmonton CapitalsTelus Field, former home to affiliated and independent ball in Edmonton, may be torn down in the next five years if a professional baseball tenant can’t be found.

The ballpark currently serves as home to the Edmonton Prospectors (summer collegiate; Western Major Baseball League), but the lease is held by Oilers Entertainment Group, which houses some Edmonton Oilers (NHL) ticket operations at the ballpark’s offices. The Oilers had owned the Edmonton Capitals of the North American League (and the Golden Baseball League’s Edmonton Cracker-Cats before that), and while officials there say they wants to bring professional baseball back to Telus Field, there’s one big issue: location. The closest affiliated team, the Vancouver Canadians (short season A; Northwest League), is over 11 hours away; the closest independent team, the Winnipeg Goldeyes (independent; American Association), is over 13 hours away. There is a strong history of Pacific Coast League baseball in Edmonton, but that history ended when the Trappers were sold to Ryan-Sanders Baseball and moved to Round Rock.

The distance is what keeps cities like Calgary and Edmonton out of pro leagues. And while Telus Field is reportedly a lovely facility, leagues like the Pacific Coast League and the American Association aren’t eager to add a city where airplane travel is a must and the hassles of crossing the border are present on every road trip. (Don’t think it’s an issue? Three GMs in the last three weeks have complained to us about the paperwork associated with border crossings.) A Canadian indy circuit would seem to be years away and would face the same issues in terms of distance and the need for air travel. Yes, there are four Canadian indy teams — Winnipeg, Quebec City, Ottawa, Trois-Rivières — but three are in the eastern part of the country. Despite the paperwork, the Goldeyes have a pretty sweet travel arrangement for most of the season (Fargo-Moorhead, Sioux City, Sioux Falls, Lincoln and St. Paul are all pretty accessible via bus), as do the three Can-Am League teams, who can spend long periods of time north of the border. A Canadian circuit isn’t out of the question, but to be economically feasible you’d need four teams in western Canada — say, Edmonton, Calgary (another former PCL city) and two others where there are no suitable ballparks, like Saskatoon and Fort McMurray, where work on a proposed ballpark has been delayed.

While the Telus Field site would appear to be ripe for development, Parks & Recreation officials do want to see baseball there. From the Edmonton Sun:

“Getting into a league, finding a league, is not that hard to do. There are leagues all over the place that are looking for franchises to join,” said spokesman Tim Shipton admitting that the most obvious one would be the American Association where the Winnipeg Goldeyes play.

“The bottom line in all of this is that in any of these leagues to join, you need a five-year lease and the city can not guarantee a five-year lease because they are going through this West Rossdale Development Plan and can’t guarantee that Telus Field will be there.

“Are we interested in baseball? We’re certainly interested in baseball,” said Shipton emphatically.

Shipton is wrong about the number of leagues that would be eager to add Edmonton, based on our chats with owners and GMs. The real issue isn’t Edmonton and lease issues: it’s the remote location, and that’s something Oilers Entertainment Group officials and city leaders can’t easily fix.

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