Mark Schuster is president of the new circuit. Schuster is a well-known name in the professional baseball world as owner and operator of several MiLB and independent teams.
The first six teams will be in Texas, as the league has memorandums of understanding on new ballparks and developments already in four markets, with two more on the way. The business model is a little different than we’ve seen in other startups, with an emphasis on smaller ballparks: a total of 4,000 or so in capacity, 2,000-2,500 or so fixed seats, but plenty of places in the grandstand and outfield for small groups to gather and watch a game. These markets have not hosted professional baseball in the past.
“The ballpark has really become a gathering area, where folks like to wander and meet with friends and not be stuck in their seats,” Schuster said. “You’ll see our ballparks reflect that trend.”
As stated, the first teams will all be in Texas. Expansion, which could happen as soon as 2019, will focus on surrounding states — Oklahoma, Louisiana, Colorado.
“We have taken our time setting up this league, because we want to do it right,” Schuster said. “We have some tremendous markets that are excited about building new multipurpose venues that will play host to minor league baseball and a myriad of other events. We will be introducing the cities over the coming weeks and months.”
The plan to roll put teams market by market, followed by name-the-team contests and opening of season-ticket sales. Each new ballpark will have a fan/social friendly design featuring amenities for all, including Kids Zones, an array of food and beverage options, private party areas, interactive games, luxury suites and a state-of- the-art LED videoboard. The teams will feature 21-man rosters and no restrictions a la the “LS” designation found in the independent American Association, for instance.
Another key component of the plan involves an adjacent “Ballpark Village” that will include restaurant, commercial and other retail space.
“We’re thrilled to be moving into markets that are currently underserved,” Schuster added. “Our commitment to our community partners is to enhance the quality of life by providing affordable family entertainment year round.”
The Southwest League will play a 112-game schedule, with 56 home games and 56 games on the road.