When it comes to new ballparks, affiliated Minor League Baseball will have a busy 2019, with three new facilities opening. Inaugural MiLB games have been announced for all three ballparks and, with the regular season approaching, we are providing an overview of the three opening dates.
That includes the home openers for the Fayetteville Woodpeckers (High A; Carolina League), Amarillo Sod Poodles (Class AA; Texas League), and the Las Vegas Aviators (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League). Later this week, we will give a similar overview of college baseball facilities.
New Amarillo Ballpark, April 8
After years of planning, the opening of a new downtown Amarillo venue is drawing closer. The Sod Poodles are scheduled to host the Midland RockHounds in the ballpark’s first regular-season game on April 8, putting the facility in line to be the first of the three new MiLB venues to make its regular-season debut.
Reflecting some modern trends, the Sod Poodles’ new home will be designed to provide unique experiences for a wide range of groups and fans. It will feature several premium and group areas, including dugout suites, group patio areas, concourse suites, and more. Backed by Elmore Sports Group, the Sod Poodles are the result of a move of the former Class AA San Antonio Missions. The Missions name and brand remains in San Antonio, as the former Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) will begin play there next season. This is all part of a series of franchise shifts by the Elmore Sports Group, which also moved the former Helena Brewers (Rookie; Pioneer League) to Colorado Springs to take the place of the Sky Sox.
Las Vegas Ballpark, April 9
Construction continues in Downtown Summerlin, where the newly minted Aviators are preparing to open Las Vegas Ballpark (photo above). The team’s first regular-season home game is scheduled for April 9, when it will square off against the Sacramento River Cats.
As we noted on Monday, construction recently hit a milestone with the installation of Las Vegas Ballpark’s first seats. The leadup to Opening Day has been busy for the Las Vegas franchise, which has had an eventful offseason thus far. Along with rebranding from 51s to Aviators, the club signed a new affiliation deal with the Oakland Athletics, allowing the A’s to take the place of the New York Mets as its parent club. Additionally, Don Logan, who has been with the team for 35 years, was named PCL Executive of the Year.
New Fayetteville Ballpark, April 18
After beginning the season on the road, the Woodpeckers will open their brand-new ballpark with an April 18 matchup against the Carolina Mudcats. Formerly the Buies Creek Astros, the newly minted Woodpeckers will arrive at their permanent home in downtown Fayetteville after spending the past two seasons at Campbell University’s Jim Perry Stadium.
Fayetteville officials have touted the ballpark as the anchor for a larger downtown redevelopment project. It will also host a number of events in addition to Woodpeckers’ games, and has already been announced as the home of the annual Big South Conference baseball tournament from 2019-2021.
For all three markets, the opening dates will represent milestones. After years of searching for a modern replacement for Cashman Field, the Aviators will finally debut a new facility with April’s opening of Las Vegas Ballpark. In both Amarillo and Fayetteville, affiliated MiLB action returns after a considerable absence. The Sod Poodles are the first Amarillo-based affiliated minor-league team since the Texas League’s Gold Sox relocated to Beaumont, TX after the 1982 season, while Fayetteville has not had an MiLB club since the Cape Fear Crocs (Low A; Sally League) moved to Lakewood, NJ after the 2000 campaign.
Photo of Las Vegas Ballpark construction, taken January 6, courtesy Las Vegas Aviators.
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