With Edmonton awarding a 10-year lease for RE/MAX Field to a group promising two summer-collegiate teams in the former Triple-A ballpark, the city could end up with none, as the Edmonton Prospects announce a move to nearby Spruce Grove.
Here’s the background. The city of Edmonton opened the lease to the former Telus Field, once home to the Pacific Coast League’s Edmonton Trappers, to bid. The Edmonton Prospects (summer collegiate; WCBL) ownership and a group led by Dr. Randy Gregg, a former Edmonton Oilers player, both submitted bids for the 10-year lease. The pitch from Gregg’s group calls for RE/MAX Field to continue accommodating some baseball-related uses, but also focuses on hosting more event dates by featuring a broader array of programming, including non-sporting events. In the case of the Prospects, team owner Patrick Cassidy notes that the organization would take an active role not just in reshaping RE/MAX Field, but in future planning for the land surrounding the ballpark.
In the case of Gregg’s bid, his group called for two WCBL teams playing out of RE/MAX Field: the Prospects and a team owned by the new management. Not so fast, said the Prospects and the WCBL. The Prospects unveiled a plan to play out of a new ballpark in the greater Edmonton area, while the WCBL killed a plan for any WCBL team playing out of RE/MAX Field: the Prospects will control the market even with a move out of the city, and it only takes one owner to kill an expansion application.
According to a press release issued by Cassidy and the Prospects, the team will move forward with a Spruce Grove ballpark plan, with the expectation of a 2022 opening date. From the Edmonton Sun:
“Spruce Grove was always on the table for us, it’s ideally set up for a Western Canadian Baseball League franchise,” he said, drawing similarities with the success the defending-champion Okotoks Dawgs have been able to realize after moving from Calgary’s Foothills Stadium. “If it worked there, perhaps it could work here. Down there, they continually finish about third in terms of attendance figures throughout all of college summer baseball, averaging 3,500-4,000 fans a game, year in and year out.
“That’s a community of 25,000 people 20 minutes out of Calgary. Here, we’ve got a community of 45,000 20 minutes out of Edmonton.”
The club is in the process of finalizing the purchase of 25 acres to develop on the corner of Hwy. 16A and Pioneer Road. But the preference would, of course, have been to remain in Edmonton’s eye-catching river valley ballpark, where they saw an increase in annual attendance from just under 6,000 fans in 2012, to a record-setting 60,000 last season, averaging 2,143 over 28 games to sit 13th overall in summer baseball clubs on the continent.
If Gregg’s group wants to bring in summer-collegiate ball, the options are very limited once you move past the WCBL: Edmonton is almost 10 hours from the nearest West Coast League city and over 13 hours from the nearest independent-baseball outpost, the American Association’s Winnipeg Goldeyes. As Gregg’s group did envision two teams playing out of one ballpark, they could consider the USBPL model and house four teams playing out of the single venue.
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