Now that its short and rocky relationship with the Joplin Blasters (independent; American Association) is ending, the City of Joplin must consider its options for Joe Becker Stadium.
The two-year run for the Blasters at a renovated Joe Becker Stadium has come to what was seen as an increasingly inevitable end. Throughout the 2016 season, the Blasters and the city found themselves in a quarrel over issues such as ballpark maintenance and non-gameday events. That, combined with financial issues faced by the franchise, made it seem likely that the 2016 campaign would be the Blasters’ last.
On Friday, the departure of the Blaserts was confirmed, as the American Association announced that the Cleburne Railroaders would replace the team in the league. In the meantime, the city has sued the Blasters ownership for several charges, including breach of contract and fraud.
A hearing on that case is set for October, but the city faces a separate problem of resolving the future of Joe Becker Stadium. Alternate uses–such as an entry in the independent Pecos League–have been discussed. However, the City of Joplin will have to be more thorough than it was when completing its agreement with the Blasters, according to Joplin Globe columnist Mark Schremmer:
But in August 2015, a state auditor criticized the city for failing to conduct a feasibility study before entering into a contract with the Blasters to renovate and rebuild Joe Becker Stadium at a cost of $4.7 million.
According to the audit, the Joplin Chamber of Commerce did an economic impact study on professional baseball. However, the audit noted the study was conducted under the assumption that significant development, such as the construction of restaurants and loft apartments, would be a part of the plan. The audit also said that an affiliated minor league baseball team was used as the basis of the study rather than an independent professional team.
The fact that the city and the Blasters ownership group invested substantial amounts of money without conducting a quality feasibility study is beyond baffling.
The Blasters arrived in Joplin at the start of the 2015 season. Renovations to Joe Becker Stadium included the reconstruction of the grandstand.