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Catching Up With Old and New Amarillo Ballparks

Proposed Amarillo ballpark, July 20, 2017

Amarillo officials feel that they are making progress in their effort to secure an agreement for the San Antonio Missions (Class AA; Texas League), a key step on the effort to open a new ballpark by 2019. Meanwhile, a separate debate in the region concerns Potter County Memorial Stadium, a longtime baseball facility that is falling on hard times.

In June, the Elmore Sports Group announced that it would move the Texas League’s Missions to Amarillo, where a new ballpark is to be constructed for the 2019 season. That shuffle will affect multiple clubs—the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) are going to San Antonio to take the place of the Missions, while the Helena Brewers (Rookie; Pioneer League) will move to Colorado Springs.

Planning for the new Amarillo ballpark continues, with officials working to make sure that the facility is ready for the 2019 season. Elmore Sports group signed a letter of intent with the city in June and have since been working on a lease agreement, and Amarillo believes it is making progress to finalize that deal. More from the Amarillo Globe-News:

Perhaps most notably, Elmore Sports Group’s lease of the ballpark appears to be nearing its final stages. Mayor Ginger Nelson said the city received a draft from the ownership group on Thursday evening and will “move quickly to finalize our comments” before sending the lease back to Elmore and on to Major League Baseball.

After the Amarillo City Council’s closed-door meeting with city attorney Mick McKamie on Tuesday, Councilman Eddy Sauer said a lease along the same terms as agreed to in the Letter of Intent was imminent. At the time, City Manager Jared Miller said Elmore Sports Group would pay more to lease its ballpark over the next 20 to 30 years than any other team in the Texas League. The team will then receive revenue from ticket sales, suite sponsorships and concessions.

“I think we’re sitting at the door and it’s just a matter of working the semantics out in the contract. When it’s talked about or discussed, it seems like we’re basically just hammering out the legalese on the deal,” Sauer said. “Personally, I think it’s nothing more than a formality.”

A separate matter in the Amarillo region is the fate of Potter County Memorial Stadium, the longtime home to professional baseball in the area.  Southern Independent Baseball still holds a lease on the facility, but subleased the ballpark to San Jacinto Christian Academy after the Texas AirHogs (independent; American Association) announced that they would not return after the 2016 season, citing the ballpark’s condition as a factor.

The academy’s baseball season earlier this year, and Southern Independent Baseball’s lease is going to expire at the end of September. Gary Elliston, the organization’s owner, says he does not foresee a renewal, and though no final decisions have been made about the facility’s future, Potter County officials are expressing concerns about the cost of getting it into shape. More from the Amarillo Globe-News:

“Your guess is as good as mine. It’ll probably just keep deteriorating,” said Potter County Precinct 3 Commissioner Leon Church.

“It’s an old facility and it’s never going to be usable unless you sink lots and lots of money into it and I don’t see the county ever doing that. We have too many other needs at this point.”

Church estimated it would cost $15 million to fix the problems at the stadium.

“I don’t believe the county should be in the entertainment business,” he said. “Personally, I would like to see the county get out of the ownership of that (but) I don’t know who’d be interested.”

Potter County Memorial Stadium originally opened in 1949, and was home to professional baseball teams for decades, including Amarillo’s last affiliated club, the Amarillo Gold Sox (Class AA; Texas League).

RELATED STORIES: First Look at Amarillo Ballpark Concepts; Amarillo Texas League Team Puts Potter County Memorial Stadium At RiskElmore Sports Group, Amarillo Sign Ballpark LOI; Potter County Passes on Pecos League LeaseAmarillo Lone Stars Still Finalizing Ballpark LeasePotter County Watching for Amarillo’s DecisionPecos League Eyes Amarillo; Texas AirHogs Splitting from Amarillo

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