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Status of Joplin Blasters in Doubt for 2017

Joplin BlastersFacing both an unstable financial situation and a strained relationship with the city, the Joplin Blasters (independent; American Association) might not return next season.

It has been known that the City of Joplin and Blasters president Gabriel Suarez are not on the same page, particularly as it relates to the maintenance of Joe Becker Stadium. An email correspondence uncovered in August showed not only terse relations between the two sides, but cast doubt over whether the Blasters could sustain themselves into the 2017 campaign. The team’s attendance numbers in its second season declined, leaving revenue issues on top of the question marks about the facility.

Questions about the team’s future persist. While nothing has been officially decided regarding the Blasters’ status for next season, those involved with the team concede that the events of 2016 put the Blasters in jeopardy, particularly as another option looms. More from the Joplin Globe:

Truth is, while the city and team prepare to exchange barbs for the second consecutive offseason, the damage may already be done. During owners meetings in St. Paul during the American Association All-Star break last month, at least three cities made pitches for expansion into the AA for the 2017 season.

One of those cities, Cleburne, Texas, comes armed with an already under-construction stadium that is part of a $100 million complex in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.

According to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation, the Suarezes and Cleburne RailRoaders franchise have a preliminary agreement that — pending expansion approval by the AA — will give the Suarezes control of baseball operations for the new franchise — including an agreement for Gabe Suarez to manage the new club.

“There have been overtures from about three different cities that have been wanting us to consider them,” Oscar Suarez said when asked if the Suarez group was involved with the Cleburne franchise. “I’ve always said that we have a lease here and we’re going to try and see what comes out of this place.

“But financially, I’m not going to lose the money I’ve lost this year again,” said Suarez, who cited losses of more than $200,000. “And if I have to move on, I’ll move on. The financial model doesn’t work. No fool in their right mind would continue that way.”

The Blasters first arrived in Joplin for the 2015 season.

Update: The Blasters did not make their September lease payment, and the city wants to know what the team has planned in the future.

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