The City of Fayetteville has hired Jason Freier of Hardball Capital to represent it in talks with the Houston Astros over the terms of a new-ballpark lease for a High-A Carolina League team.
Freier owns the Columbia Fireflies (Low A; Sally League), the Chattanooga Lookouts (Class AA; Southern League) and the Fort Wayne TinCaps (Low A; Midwest League). He’s guided construction of two new ballparks along the way: Parkview Field in Fort Wayne and Spirit Communications Park this year in Columbia, two of the best ballparks in all of baseball. And Fayetteville officials say they want to use Spirit Communications Park as a model as they plan a new $46.9 million facility.
He’ll be sitting on the other side of the table in these talks, however, as he works out a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Astros, with a deadline of August 19 to come to terms. His hiring came at a meeting of the city’s baseball committee tonight. From the Fayetteville Observer:
Freier, who participated in Thursday’s meeting via speaker phone, said the Columbia stadium took 18 months to construct. He described having a stadium in Fayetteville ready on opening day in 2018 as “a tough sale.” He said the Astros would have to play in an alternate, yet-to-be identified site, until a new Fayetteville stadium was built….
Mayor Nat Robertson updated the committee on his recent 15-minute phone call with Astros President Reid Ryan. He said he told Ryan how city officials “are looking forward to working with them. And they are looking forward to being here as well.”
According to Robertson, Ryan’s “concern was at the rate of speed with which we can move.” He said Houston will have to buy a team from the California League to play somewhere in North Carolina in the Carolina League in the 2017 season, even though the stadium would not be ready until 2018 or 2019 at the latest.
Still to be finalized: a financing plan, though alternatives were discussed today in a closed session. The committee will meet again in a week.
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