Archive for the ‘Stadiums’ Category

$15 May Be A Bit Much For Minor League Baseball

A couple weeks ago, Extra P and I were talking about some ideas for Bus Leagues when he mentioned the Gwinnett Braves, specifically that it would be hilarious if they managed to outdraw their major league counterparts this season.

A quick check of the facts – Gwinnett was averaging about 5,600 per game at the time, compared to nearly 24,000 for Atlanta (although the Big Braves fill the ballpark to less than 50% of capacity on average) – made us realize that this pipe dream was just that, a dream.  (This realization did not stop us from being irrationally excited.  This is what minor league baseball does to us.)

Apparently, though, Gwinnett has it’s own problems – namely, some of the local folk consider the ticket prices to be outrageously high:

Apparently, the Braves organization forgot that this is minor league baseball. The Columbus Clippers are held up as leading the International League in attendance. What the writer fails to mention is that Clippers tickets are more reasonably priced.

And what is the deal with $6 hot dogs? I love baseball, but I wanted minor league because it is more cost-effective. If I want to get gouged, I will brave a trip inside the perimeter. It is painfully obvious that the Braves organization looks on Gwinnett County as a cash cow.

Frank Carter in Buford is mad as hell and he’s not gonna take it anymore.

I was ready to write this off as the sort of fan we used to see all the time in Nashua, the ones who complain that $8 tickets are WAAAY overpriced.  These are the people who generally want minor league sporting events to be presented totally free of charge.

Before I dissed Frank like that, I ventured over to the Gwinnett Braves web site to look at the prices for myself.  It turns out he’s kind of right – $15 for seats to a minor league game is a bit much.  $12 is probably too much as well.  As a general rule, anything over $10 is probably a little high, unless it’s some sort of special event like an All-Star game.

So, in the end, I don’t think we can pull off our master “hype Gwinnett over Atlanta and see what happens” plan, which is a shame.  Maybe Indianapolis vs. Pittsburgh would be better.

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MiLB is Renting Dodgertown

dodgertown_10

Odds are, you’ve heard of Dodgertown. Maybe you’ve even been there. It’s the famous Florida spring training facility of the Los Angeles Dodgers; or, at least, it was. After 61 years of training in Dodgertown, The west-coast based franchise decided that traveling to Glendale, Arizona suited them much better than a cross-country voyage every year. They’ll keep the rights to the trademarked name when they move.

So what becomes of the original Dodgertown? Well, MiLB, which is headquartered in Florida, has stepped in to sign a five-year-lease to manage the facility. They’re currently negotiating with the Dodgers to retain the name in some fashion, possibly “Historic Dodgertown”. They’re going to continue multi-use applications for the facility, allowing the county to stage events there and generally trying to keep the facility up and running. The ultimate goal is to attract another spring training resident.

Here are some provisions of the deal:

Similar to the Dodgers agreement, the MiLB lease provides the county with 10 days a year to use the facility, in addition to the Harvest Festival, an annual fundraising event for St. Helen Catholic School.

The lease charges MiLB a token rent of $1 a year and allows it to keep the proceeds from ticket and concession sales. But that’s no giveaway, County Commissioner Peter O’Bryan said.

“They get all the revenue, but they also get all the expenses,” he said.

Also:

• MiLB will have restricted access to a $2 million capital reserve account for improvements to the facility.

• MiLB will include Vero Beach and the county in its advertising of sporting events and receive at least $50,000 annually from tourist tax revenue for this.

• Field lights will be added to two existing playing fields this year and two additional playing fields in 2010. Vero Beach will provide up to $126,000 in tourist tax or local optional sales tax money toward the project

[TCPalm.com]

Sounds like a pretty sensible arrangement for everyone involved. As often as we see historic structures torn down, this should be a perfect interim arrangement until Dodgertown can find its ultimate future use, either as a history theme park, a home for a new team, or both.

Never Been to Rosenblatt? Act Quickly.

rosenblatt_stadium_panoramic_view

I have a friend from my college days in Kansas named Dave. He and I have been friends for about 20 years, and the basis of our relationship has gone through many phases. In college, enormous gin and tonics served in 32-oz. Big Gulp cups were the start of our bond. Later, food ruled the day, as we experimented with various “food highs” brought on by the overconsumption of ribs, pizza, hot dogs, or whatever we could find lying around. More recently, we share stories about our kids and our more moderate habits are on display.

Throughout that entire time, there has been one enduring constant – baseball. One of our big dreams is to take a buddy trip to the College World Series in Omaha. We never did it while we lived in the midwest and it would have been easy, so now we will have to work a little harder, as Dave would have to come from Denver, and I would have to travel from Virginia.

rosenblatt_statueBut the dream is still there, and the timetable is a bit accelerated now. Seems the Omaha Royals are building a new downtown stadium (who isn’t?) and the mayor of Omaha isn’t willing to keep venerable Rosenblatt stadium around just for the Series. Which makes sense – keeping something that big around for an event that happens one month out of the year is not economically sensible. But many, many people will miss the friendly confines of Rosenblatt.

So if, like Dave and I, you’ve always dreamed of taking in the CWS in its original glory, make your travel plans right now. I’m sure the new place will be nice, but Rosenblatt was built in 1948 and has a ton of history behind it. This is one of those things you don’t want to regret having never done.

Quad Cities River Bandits Star in “Sugar”

sugarI love a good formulaic feel-good baseball movie as much as the next guy. Especially when the premise is inventive, like it was in “Field of Dreams”. But when you get to the more Disney-esque types of films, I tend to lose interest – I feel like I’ve seen it before, as the plucky loser makes good.

Sounds like the latest baseball film, “Sugar”, is a more realistic look at how baseball winnows its talent pool. It’s the story of a Dominican pitcher who plays well enough to make it out of the Republic and onto a minor-league roster. In the Disney version, Miguel “Sugar” Santos would suffer a mid-career setback, turn things around, fall in love, and win his major league debut.

But this movie isn’t about beating the odds. It’s about real life. From the reviews I’ve read, Sugar finds out he’s good, but not great. So he tops out in the minors, and has to figure out what to do with his life after baseball dead-ends. It might sound depressing, but this film is made by the production team that created the fantastic film “Half Nelson“, which gave us a drug-addicted teacher and a disadvantaged student who make small but important differences in one another’s lives. If this story is treated with the same even-handed approach, it should be gripping.

The part that interested me from a Bus Leagues perspective was my attempt to find out what minor-league ballparks might have been used in the filming. I know from the movie’s press kit that it was shot in the Dominican, Arizona, Iowa, and the Bronx. The only info I could find was about the Iowa location:

Once the action in the film moves to the U.S., the filmmakers wanted to be just as accurate in their depiction of life among minor league players. To find the home for the Single-A team that marks the apex of Miguel’s career, they spent days driving around Iowa. They eventually decided on Davenport, a small city on the banks of the Mississippi.

 

“The city and the team really embraced us,” says Patricof. “We used the uniforms and the stadium of the real team.”

[Sugar Press Kit]

That team is the Quad Cities River Bandits (Cardinals). If you look at the movie’s poster, you see the distinctive bridge over the Mississippi that looms near the stadium. The River Bandits have a big movie premiere party going on this weekend, with the movie’s star throwing out the first pitch and signing autographs. The River Bandits’ stadium also has a marvelous name: Modern Woodmen Park. Not a bad name if your team brings big bats to the game every night. Or if you’re filming a baseball-themed porno. Which, come to think of it, you could totally also name “Sugar”.

Anyway, I’ll be looking forward to catching “Sugar” when it comes to my town. And I’ll have a special eye out for the baseball haven of Davenport, Iowa (they grow corn in the outfield!) during the minor-league scenes.

[Quad Cities River Bandits] [Sugar Film Site]

Diamondbacks Getting Naughty

visaliarawhide

I thought about making this entry the second in my “I’m an observant fellow” series, since I seem to occasionally miss important developments. However, this time, I think it was an issue of timing rather than oversight.

Allow me to explain.

Every season, I update the list of affiliates for each MLB team on our MiLB Teams page. Generally, I head over to each team’s page, where they have a list of affiliates. Seems I did that a bit too early this season, as I completely missed two developments in the Diamondbacks’ farm system.

First of all, and perhaps least forgivable, the Dbacks have moved their Triple-A affiliate from Tucson, where they were called the Sidewinders, to Reno, where they are the Aces and have a brand-new stadium. Seems like something I should have known already, but it’s a big system. Fair cup, bygones. What matters is that I tried.

When I was checking out the revamped Dbacks website, I also noticed that their High-A team had changed. While the Oaks remained in Visalia, CA, they changed their name to the Visalia Rawhide.

So, we have gambling and S&M taking their rightful places in the Bus Leagues. About time, I say. I can’t wait to see what the concourse entertainment options are at these parks. Will they be 18-and-over only?

I hope the Rawhide find a way to have the national anthem (and the Rawhide TV theme) sung by a Blue Brothers cover band. That would be fantastic.

Richmond Moves to Replace Braves

defenders_20081018093305_320_2401As a resident of central Virginia, I have spent a fair amount of time covering the drama surrounding the former Richmond Braves. When the parent club decided to move their triple-A affiliate from Virginia’s capital city to the suburbs of Atlanta itself, Richmond residents were stunned.

The R-Braves, as they were known locally, had been in the area since 1966, so many couldn’t believe their beloved franchise was gone.

Local investors took a deep breath and plunged into the search for a replacement, however. And it’s starting to look like they’ve zeroed in on the next team to call Richmond home.

From the website of Norwich’s WTNH:

According to a Richmond newspaper, the plans call for the Richmond group to buy the Defenders for about $15 million and move the team to Virginia at the end of the 2009 season.

The deal must be approved by the Eastern League and by officials at Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball.

[WTNH-TV]

Virginia hasn’t had a double-A team since I moved here ten years ago, so I’m kind of happy to hear this. It’s kind of like hitting for the cycle, affiliation-wise. The Defenders are tied into the Giants, so that should be an interesting change. Whether the club’s nickname changes or not doesn’t really matter to me, but I do hope they get a new stadium. The Diamond, where the R-Braves used to play, is a concrete eyesore, in my humble opinion. Then again, we don’t want to be wasting big bucks in these economic times do we?

Here’s hoping the sale goes through. It’ll be great to have a new Bus Leagues option near home.

Bull Durham Stadium to become Training Field of Dreams

The Durham Bulls haven’t played in Durham Athletic Park for years now. Nobody’s had to hold the flavor of the month’s junk there for some time, but the park still stands. Nobody really wants to tear down the filmic backdrop to the legendary baseball movie “Bull Durham”.

Now comes the news that the City of Durham is renovating the stadium, courtesy of a $6.3 million budget. The new field will host the collegiate baseball battles of North Carolina Central University. Some reports also claim that the facility will be a training ground for future ballpark employees:

When it’s finished, the old park will be a new training ground for minor league baseball. People will come to Durham to learn how to take care of fields and how to “flip” them from festivals to ballgames.

[WRAL]

I’ve attempted to contact the city to find out what they’re doing with the debris from the old stadium. Wouldn’t you love a chance to buy the table Millie was lying on when she and Nuke… never mind.

[MyNC.com]