The announcement of an WCL expansion team is expected today, with a team to be run out of RE/MAX Field and presumably launching in 2021. A group led by former Oiler Dr. Randy Gregg will own the team as part of their takeover of the RE/MAX Field lease beginning in April 2021. The owners of the Edmonton Prospects (WCBL) had vied for the RE/MAX Field lease, but the city went with the Gregg group; as a result, the Prospects decided to build a new ballpark in suburban Spruce Grove beginning in 2022. An effort to work with the Gregg group on two WCBL teams in Edmonton never took off.
Enter the WCL, which is centered in the Pacific Northwest (all 13 teams are located in Washington state, Oregon or British Columbia). Edmonton is nine hours away from the nearest WCL team and represents quite the dramatic expansion. That’s nothing new for Edmonton–Minor League Baseball and independent baseball ultimately failed in Edmonton because of the remote location–but in this case you’re talking about a bus league expanding nine hours outside its nearest location, squarely into the back yard of another summer-collegiate league. From the Sherwood Park News:
“While I’ve been a proponent of two franchises in this market for some time, what made sense was to have them both operating out of the same league and from two stadiums so that co-ordination of scheduling and prime dates could be orchestrated and, from a WCBL standpoint, travel for all league teams could be reduced,” Cassidy said. “I’m not sure what their plan is to reduce travel for players, but that is always a major consideration for any league and often the reason many bus leagues falter.”
The closest WCL team is a nine-hour drive from Edmonton, with two-thirds of the league located south of the B.C.-U.S. border, while that same nine hours runs the distance on the entire WCBL.
“That’s our longest road trip, from Lethbridge or Medicine Hat to Fort McMurray,” said WCBL president Kevin Kvame, pointing out travel has plagued U.S.-based baseball leagues with teams in Alberta since the glory days of affiliated ball with the Edmonton Trappers and Calgary Cannons. “I don’t know how it works with the West Coast League, they haven’t given us the courtesy of a call or an email back or anything. I have other dealings with one of their general managers who gave me a heads up about a day or so ago, but he wasn’t even aware that they were doing this until recently.”
Now, there’s nothing sacred about summer-collegiate league footprints, and you see different leagues completing for markets all the time. Edmonton is a major market, so it’s no surprise the WCL would be interested. What will be interesting will be how the league addresses travel and logistics.
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