Joe Becker Stadium could eventually become the home of a Southwest League club, as the City of Joplin will begin negotiations with the soon-to-launch circuit.
Conceived by Mark Schuster and the Ventura Sports Group, the independent Southwest League is slated to make its debut in 2019 with six teams. The league has been involved in discussions surrounding the construction of new ballparks in the Texas communities of Beallmead and Royse City, and is zeroing on Joe Becker Stadium as a potential home for one of its clubs.
At a Joplin City Council meeting on Wednesday, Schuster had sought to obtain a non-binding memorandum of understanding with the city, allowing him to in turn seek investors for a Joplin-based Southwest League club. Ultimately, the council decided to have city staff launch discussions with the league on the parameters of a possible Joe Becker Stadium lease. More from The Joplin Globe:
But council members, most prominently Ryan Stanley and Phil Stinnett, expressed concern that initial lease possibilities presented by Ventura were not feasible and that first establishing at least the basics of a possible lease agreement for Joe Becker would give potential investors more security in considering ownership. Stanley also raised the concern of creating an appearance that the city was committed to being part of the league before acceptable lease terms were in place.
“I don’t know how different the negotiation is going to be in February than it would be today on what we’re willing to take on the lease,” Stanley said. “I don’t think it would be hard for us to hammer out the broad strokes of the lease. My theory is it exposes us to a decent amount of risk (without a lease).”
Schuster suggested a predetermined period of time during which his group and city staff could negotiate a lease, which City Manager Sam Anselm said would then be presented to the council. Stinnett and Mayor Mike Seibert stressed a desire for the council to be kept in the loop of those discussions so as not to be asked to vote on a lease agreement it had not had time to review.
Schuster suggested two weeks for negotiations, but the motion the council passed Wednesday night did not include a specific time frame for the discussions to take place.
Joe Becker Stadium has been without a professional baseball tenant since the Joplin Blasters (independent; American Association) ceased operations following the 2016 season. In 2017, the ballpark was used by the Joplin Outlaws (summer collegiate; MINK League).
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