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American Association, Northwoods League compete for Sioux City’s Lewis & Clark Park

Sioux City ExplorersLewis & Clark Park may have been built for the Sioux City Explorers, but the American Association team is competing with the summer-collegiate Northwoods League for a 2024 lease.

Built in 1993, the 3,800-capacity ballpark has been home to the Explorers since the team and the Northern League launched. When Lewis & Clark Park opened, it was arguably state of the art for the then-emerging independent-baseball industry, featuring suites and liquor service.

The team has struggled at times over the years, but owner John Roost wants to keep his team playing in Sioux City. The city, meanwhile, wanted to explore whether there were alternatives to the Explorers, so an RFP was issued for a new lease. There were two respondents: the Explorers and the summer-collegiate Northwoods League.

The response from the Explorers: a 12-year lease with a base rent of $100,000. The Northwoods League response was different in terms of scope. The summer-collegiate circuit offered $25,000 per year in a lease for an expansion team, rising by 3 percent annually for the 10-year lease, followed by two five-year options with lease terms to be negotiated. The Northwoods League would also place a team in a new summer-collegiate softball league in Sioux City, playing at Hubbard Park, the city’s home for softball (and, given the Iowa location, originally the city’s home for kittenball) since 1940. Both teams would commit to some unspecified ballpark improvements as well.

The city is evaluating the two responses, with a decision expected in October. A group of local citizens is proposing both teams play there, but we’re guessing economically that’s a nonstarter for both groups: control of the facility is a huge deal now in the baseball business world, and there’s the possibility of disagreements over revenue splits for things like signage and concessions. Plus, scheduling is a nightmare, as the owner of the Frederick Keys and Spire City Ghost Hounds found out when scheduling both pro and summer-collegiate teams in Harry Grove Stadium. Those issues were encountered when a single owner controlled both teams; it certainly would be worse with two different sets of owners.

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