More on the proposed move of the Mobile BayBears (Class AA; Southern League) to the Huntsville suburb of Madison (AL) — and the projected financial numbers for making a move to the area work.
As we passed along yesterday, there is a plan out there from an Arizona investment group that would move the team to the Huntsville suburb of Madison, Savannah or Baton Rouge. The report from WHNT quotes an investment pitch from BallCorps, LLC as saying the firm has had discussions with reps from Madison County and the City of Madison regarding a potential new ballpark in the Town Madison development. The pitch also lists Savannah and Baton Rouge as potential destinations.
The plan includes some financial projections in terms of attendance and profits. One line that’s drawing some attention from industry insiders: the team could draw 5,700 fans a game.
Now, never mind the history of the Huntsville Stars (Class AA; Southern League) and the team’s attendance woes in its final days: that was different ownership, different ballpark, different market. We’ve seen time and time again successful MiLB teams setting up shop where a previous team had failed: Columbia and Greenville pop to mind.
But, drawing 5,700 fans per game isn’t easy. On the one hand, almost 29 teams average that number or better in 2016, and four of those teams were in Double-A. One of those teams was the Birmingham Barons (Class AA; Southern League), and it’s pretty clear the Barons were a point of reference for this investment group. But, as any MiLB front-office type can tell you, hitting that level of performance is hard. And most of those 29 teams are in much larger markets — Charlotte, Indianapolis, Columbus, Sacramento, Round Rock — and playing in a Triple-A league. Now, there are many in MiLB who say Huntsville/Decatur is a good market, as witnessed by the multiple attempts to bring in a new team to replace the Stars. From WHNT:
It wrote to investors that this area is “arguably the best minor league baseball market in the southeastern United States.” It cited the Huntsville-Decatur area as the “perfect economy and population to support Double-A baseball.”
Meanwhile, Southern League President Lori Webb confirms what we reported yesterday: it’s no secret that Mobile is on the market. From AL.com:
“What I can tell you is the Mobile franchise has been on the market for a while and we do have some potential buyers,” Webb said. “At this time, we have not approved a sale yet. We’re just starting the process and, really, that’s all I can tell you at this time. We have a potential sale. It’s up to the league at this point to do our due diligence and see if we want to approve the potential buyers. It’s a process that could take a couple of months. That’s what we’re working on now.”
RELATED STORIES: Mobile BayBears On the Move?