Since a new ballpark is still a few years away, the Houston Astros and the City of Fayetteville are vetting contenders for a temporary facility.
The High-A Carolina League franchise is set to begin play next season, but the timeline for a new downtown ballpark in Fayetteville calls for the facility to open until 2019. Left with a two-year window until its completion, the Astros and Fayetteville have been exploring some temporary solutions. Campbell University’s Jim Perry Stadium has been brought up as a possible option, while J.P. Riddle Stadium–former home of the Cape Fear Crocs (Low A; Sally League) and current host of the Fayetteville SwampDogs (summer collegiate; Coastal Plain League)–has reportedly been ruled out.
Following the conclusion of Major League Baseball’s regular season over the weekend, Astros president Reid Ryan visited Fayetteville. No firm announcement regarding a temporary facility emerged from the visit, but Ryan indicated that the Astros are willing to explore several different options. More from The Fayetteville Observer:
In an interview with The Fayetteville Observer before the committee meeting, Ryan said the Astros’ elimination from the playoffs last week freed his calendar to visit Fayetteville this week. He said one purpose of the trip was scouting areas, potentially as far away as South Carolina and Virginia, for a temporary home for the next two years until the Fayetteville stadium is built and ready by the start of the 2019 season.
Ryan wouldn’t say how many sites he is considering, or how far away they might be from Fayetteville. They could play in two locations over the two years, he said, and it would not be unprecedented to play all of the home games on the road until a permanent facility is built.
“We’ve left all the options on the table,” Ryan said.
He said the Astros have until the start of the next season in April to lock down a temporary site – perhaps at a high school, college or another city-owned ball park.
Some of the moves Ryan is discussing are not completely unprecedented in minor league history. Before Prince Georges Stadium opened in June 1994, the Bowie Baysox (Class AA; Eastern League) played the 1993 campaign at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium before spending part of the following year at the University of Maryland’s Shipley Field. Even when considering the Carolina League’s history, similar parallels can be drawn, as the High-A incarnation of the Durham Bulls played the 1998 season in Danville, VA before a new ballpark in Myrtle Beach opened.
There are also recent instances of teams such as the Hartford Yard Goats (Class AA; Eastern League) spending an entire season on the road, though it is easy to foresee where both the Astros and the Carolina League would want a smoother situation.
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