A Edmonton City Council committee surprised many locally by declining a fifth-year option to extend the RE/MAX Field lease with the Edmonton Prospects (summer collegiate; Western Canada Baseball League), deciding instead to open the facility to bids for a new 10-year lease. And while the Prospects would seem to have a solid choice to land the lease, there’s a new variable here: the Owlz. It’s no secret the Owlz are seeking a new home, with owner Jeff Katofsky last year pitching Pueblo (CO) officials on a new-ballpark plan that would have included his investment in accompanying hotels. Pueblo County ultimately killed that proposal, however, leaving Katofsky to seek another market for the Owlz. From Global News:
Don Stewart, representing an entity he called Professional Baseball Alberta, made a presentation to the committee, identifying a team in the short-season class-A Pioneer League as being a possibility, the Orem Owlz, a farm team of the Los Angeles Angels.
“As most of you are likely aware, you can’t sell beer in Utah at a baseball game. And beer and baseball go hand in hand,” he told the committee. He said they play a 72-game regular season, with 36 home dates.
Stewart said travel considerations aren’t as cumbersome as post-Sept. 11, when more than half a dozen teams affiliated with major league parent clubs left Canada, including the Edmonton Trappers of the Pacific Coast League.
“The idea of getting across the border for these kids and so forth has been modernized,” he said, pointing out the stability of affiliated ball. “The continuity is the thing we’re talking about here. Once you have major league affiliation these franchises aren’t sold every day.”
Of course, not all of this is strictly true: beer is indeed sold at Utah ballparks. And the Pioneer League is a Rookie league, not a Short Season A league.
There are some serious issues with an Orem move to Edmonton, with the prime issue being distance. It takes eight hours or so to drive from the nearest Pioneer League market, Great Falls, and 10 hours to drive from Edmonton to the next-closest Pioneer League market, Missoula. This may not be a deal killer, however: the league approved a move of the Helena Brewers to Colorado Springs for 2019, without a travel partner and the nearest team 300 or so miles away.
Formerly known as Telus Field, RE/MAX Field opened in 1995 as an affiliated Minor League Baseball facility for the Edmonton Trappers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League). It has not hosted an affiliated MiLB team since the Trappers moved to Round Rock, TX after the 2004 season, but is currently used for summer-collegiate action by the Prospects.