Lafayette, IN has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for teams interested in occupying its new ballpark, leaving questions about whether the Lafayette Aviators (summer collegiate; Prospect League) will ultimately use the facility.
Following the Aviators’ 2019 season, demolition work began on Loeb Stadium–a facility that originally opened in 1940–to make way for a new ballpark on the same site that is scheduled to open in 2021. The project involves tearing down the original Loeb Stadium and effectively flipping the diamond, placing the new ballpark’s grandstand in what had been past center field. Whether the Aviators will ultimately occupy the new ballpark remains to be seen, as the city’s parks board issued an RFP this month.
While the city is not ruling out the notion of the Aviators playing at the new ballpark, a lease agreement between the two sides ended in 2019, and the city has issued an RFP for bidders that might be interested in the upcoming venue. When discussing the RFP, Lafayette mayor Tony Roswarski did not shut the door on the possibility of the Aviators playing at the facility, but stressed that the city wants to explore its options as it prepares to open the venue. Meanwhile, Brent Gutwein–a partner in the Aviators ownership group–is emphasizing the team’s interest in the venue, and that it believes it is a strong fit for the ballpark. More from the Journal & Courier:
“We’re putting $20 million into the stadium, and I think it’s prudent to put out an RFP to see what teams might be out there that are interested, in various leagues and at various levels of baseball, and be able to negotiate a contract with whoever that might be,” Roswarski said.
“Including if that is the Aviators,” Roswarski said. “I think we owe it to the taxpayers to do that, to get the highest quality baseball, the best food, the best entertainment.”…
Brent Gutwein said the Aviators and the Prospect League still seemed like the right fit for Loeb – a stadium that will have 1,910 fixed seats and room for roughly 2,600 people once suites, lawn seating and concourse tables are factored in – and for Lafayette.
“We’re really committed to the city, because we live here, and we work here,” Stuart Gutwein said. “The Aviators, speaking really frankly, isn’t some big money-making venture for us. … But it’s something we think makes Greater Lafayette a community of choice for people to live. And we wanted to part of giving back to provide great family entertainment.”
In theory, the RFP could open the door to a team from another level of baseball occupying the ballpark. That could include the professional ranks, with the independent Frontier League confirming that it is following the situation. From the Journal & Courier:
“We’re following along with what’s going on,” said Steve Tahsler, deputy commissioner for operations with the Frontier League. He said the league, based in Sauget, Illinois, had not seen the city’s request for proposals, as of Friday.
“We’ll need to see if that’s something realistic for us,” Tahsler said. “But Lafayette seems to be a great market and a good geographic location for us.”
Responses to the RFP will be accepted between now and April 6, with the city planning to make a recommendation by June. The new ballpark will be smaller than Loeb Stadium, offering fixed seating for around 2,000, with a synthetic turf to allow more use in a longer season. After spending the 2016-2019 seasons at Loeb Stadium, the Aviators will play their 2020 season at Purdue University’s Alexander Field, a shift that accommodates the ongoing construction.
Rendering courtesy American Structurepoint.
RELATED STORIES: New Lafayette Ballpark Construction Making Progress; New Lafayette Ballpark Breaks Ground; Aviators Play Final Loeb Stadium Game; Final Season for Original Loeb Stadium Underway; New Lafayette Aviators Ballpark Moves Forward; Lafayette Aviators See Room for Growth; Lafayette Aviators Sold; Renderings for New Lafayette Ballpark Unveiled; Design of New Lafayette Ballpark Discussed; Lafayette Exploring Ballpark Options; New Ballpark on Tap for Lafayette Aviators