The ownership of the Joplin Miners (independent; Southwest League) has defaulted on its Joe Becker Stadium lease, leaving doubts about the return of pro baseball to the ballpark.
The Miners were slated to be part of the upstart Southwest League, an independent circuit conceived by Mark Schuster and the Ventura Sports Group. Plans for the league had called for a 2019 launch with six teams (four have been announced thus far), all of which would be based in Texas except for the Miners–who would play home games at Joplin, MO’s Joe Becker Stadium.
Joplin Sports & Entertainment LLC–an entity that includes Schuster–secured a five-year lease agreement with the city last year that called for an annual rent payment of $35,000. The first payment was originally due on January 15, but it was pushed back to January 25 at Schuster’s request. He later confirmed that the January 25 deadline would be missed and, while Schuster hopes to get plans for Joplin back on track, the city says that it is “highly unlikely” that pro baseball will be played at Joe Becker Stadium this summer. More from the Joplin Globe:
“Mark Schuster has confirmed that they won’t be making the payment on the lease for Joe Becker today (Friday). At this point, it’s highly unlikely that there will be professional baseball at Becker this summer. We are disappointed to learn this after working hard to put our best foot forward.”
Mayor Gary Shaw was not available for comment on how the city will proceed.
The league organizer, Mark Schuster, managing partner of Ventura Sports Group Inc., said the lease payment could not be made because the league has not come together as quickly as he had hoped.
“This is taking way longer than we thought,” said by phone Friday. “Our hope is we will be able to come back to Joplin and be able to do what we said we were going to do.”
Though the ballpark has hosted the Joplin Outlaws (summer collegiate; MINK League) in recent seasons, the Miners were slated to fill a void of professional baseball at Joe Becker Stadium. The ballpark has not been home to a team from the professional ranks since the end of the Joplin Blasters (independent; American Association), who arrived to the facility in 2015 only to cease operations after the 2016 season. Prior to the debut of the Blasters, the ballpark underwent a $4.7 million renovation.
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