Two soon-to-relocate franchises closed a chapter recently, as the Mobile BayBears (Class AA; Southern League) and Potomac Nationals (High A; Carolina League) played their expected finales.
Both the BayBears and P-Nats have billed the 2019 seasons as their last at their respective homes. For the BayBears, the franchise is set relocate from Mobile’s Hank Aaron Stadium and open a new ballpark in Madison, AL next April. With the relocation, the franchise will become the Rocket City Trash Pandas and play at a $46 million ballpark being constructed west of Huntsville in the Town Madison development.
In the meantime, Monday marked the end of an era in Mobile, where the BayBears had played at Hank Aaron Stadium since its 1997 opening. The team ended its run at Hank Aaron Stadium with a 5-4 loss to the Tennessee Smokies. More from AL.com:
“It is unfortunate to see the BayBears leave after over 20 years of baseball in the Port City. The BayBears came to Mobile during an entirely different sporting and entertainment landscape,” said Mitchell Kahalley, Director of Communication for AFC Mobile, Mobile’s minor league soccer team.
“Hank Aaron Stadium’s location made sense at the time of its construction, but the venue and the team have struggled to keep up with advances made in other nearby cities such as Biloxi and Pensacola with newer and better-located stadiums,” Kahalley added.
“This whole situation also stresses the importance of local ownership in minor league sports. A team with local ownership would stay committed to the city and find a way to help the team succeed. I wish the team nothing but the best in Madison in their new life as the Trash Pandas, and I hope to see minor league baseball make a return to Mobile in the future.”
Meanwhile, the P-Nats hosted what was scheduled as their final game at Northwest Federal Field at Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge, VA on Thursday. The franchise has called the ballpark home since 1984, and had spent years searching for a replacement–including efforts to remain in Prince William County–before finalizing plans for a new facility in Fredericksburg, VA. P-Nats owner Art Silber has been preparing the new Fredericksburg ballpark for a 2020 opening, so the organization has expected the 2019 season to be its last at Pfitzner Stadium.
Technically, the P-Nats’ lease agreement would allow them to return to Pfitzner Stadium next season as a contingency in the event that the new Fredericksburg ballpark is not ready on schedule. Still, the organization remains focused on its upcoming move, with a related rebranding among the big items that will be addressed over the offseason. More from The Free-Lance Star:
While the move to the site at Celebrate Virginia South is settled, the Nationals recently renewed their lease for Pfitzner Stadium through 2020 as a contingency if the new stadium isn’t ready for opening day next April.
“That’s the only chance we’ll be back there, and it certainly won’t mimic the experience from a product standpoint,” Potomac general manager Bryan Holland said on Monday. “We’d basically just be there to get the games in.”…
The regular season ended Monday, and the franchise will soon turn its attention to replacing the temporary “Fredericksburg Baseball” moniker with a permanent name.
“Our fans are champing at the bit for the good stuff,” Holland said. “We can’t wait to unveil that.”
The P-Nats closed the 2019 season with a weekend series at Frederick. The new Fredericksburg ballpark will be located in the Celebrate Virginia South development, and has been estimated at a cost of $35 million. Under the P-Nats’ agreement with Fredericksburg, the ballpark will be privately financed by Silber and his family, with the city making an annual payment of $1.05 million to the team for 30 years as an anchor tenant. In June, the P-Nats announced that site work for the new ballpark would begin in July.
With the 2019 season in the books, attention can turn to the new affiliated Minor League Baseball ballparks in the works for 2020, which features several notable facilities beyond Madison and Fredericksburg. The Kannapolis Intimidators (Low A; Sally League) will open a new downtown ballpark next April, while the New Orleans Baby Cakes (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) are set to relocate to Wichita, KS and play at a new facility being constructed there. In addition, major renovations to Dunedin Stadium will have implications for the Dunedin Blue Jays (High A; Florida State League) as well as Toronto Blue Jays spring training.
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