Mike McCann / Minor Leagues
HOW TO ATTRACT A TEAM
By Mike McCann
I've received a few questions recently about franchise movement and what is required. There are a few things that need to be put into place in order for a franchise move (or expansion team) to occur. I'll get into some of the details that go along with franchise movement.
Stadiums are always a big topic that needs to be tackled. Stadium funding is often a big issue that has to be worked out since most of the time, public taxpayer money is required to help with the stadium. A stadium will cost millions of dollars to be built and team owners generally don't want to foot the bill. A lot of times, stadiums will be built as part of an economic revitalization project, or at least with promises to help improve the local economy. There are many instances where this has held true and definitely helped an area. Although in today's economy, many taxpayers would prefer to see the money go towards more pressing needs like education. It can often be a difficult issue.
Sometimes teams will be willing to move to an existing stadium, provided that they get the assurance that a new stadium will be built shortly thereafter. This is the case right now in Manchester, NH where the 2004 Fisher Cats team played in historic Gill Stadium while the new stadium was being built. The new stadium is scheduled to be ready for the opening of the season this year. The owners of teams always think that towns want new stadiums with all of the modern amenities and don't look at a cheaper renovation of an existing stadium to add some of the nice features that people are looking for. Many of the classic stadiums have been lost because of this, and I don't see an end any time soon.
It is a lot of work to get the stadium in place. Many agreements need to be worked out with the city in order to get this done. And it seems like everyone gets caught in a Catch-22 concerning a stadium. Teams don't want to move to a new city without at least a stadium deal in place. But cities don't want to put a stadium deal in place without being 100% sure that there will be a team that wants to move into the stadium once it is ready. I'm not sure how things actually get done.
Teams are looking for good markets to move into. The Greenville Braves are moving to Mississippi for the 2005 season, and there are already three teams lined up to move into the Greenville market. Stadium bills are in place to have a new stadium built and there is already a stadium which could house the team until it is done. Once teams hear that a stadium can be built, they are all over it.
Any franchise movement needs to be approved by the league in which the team plays. The league needs to be certain that the team is moving into a financially stable situation and that the team won't be trying to move again very soon. The leagues would prefer if the teams stayed in their current location for as long as possible, but there becomes a time when the team is no longer profitable with its current situation, so the owners of the team always look to a new stadium whether it is in the current market in which they play or a new one. For the affiliated minor league teams, Minor League Baseball needs to also approve the move. And as a reminder, Minor League Baseball consists of the affiliated teams where the independent leagues which are commonly called minor leagues are technically not. For the situation in Greenville, a Southern League team (West Tennessee) and two South Atlantic League teams (Capital City and Hagerstown) are considering the move. Since the Southern League is AA and the South Atlantic League is Low A, West Tennessee would have priority for the Greenville market. As far as affiliated versus independent, it's really left to the city to decide who to deal with.
Not a lot with the team itself will change except for the location. The team affiliation will still fall under the rules of the Player Development Contract that was signed, regardless of where it plays. Actually, the possible movement will play a factor when signing the PDCs because if a major league team knows that a minor league team is trying to move to a town where that major league team wants its affiliate to be, it will help with the pairing of the teams. The players will fall into place just as they would have in the previous location.
I hope that this helps to clarify some questions that you may have had as far as minor league franchise movement.
I am always looking for topics to write about, so please send me an e-mail and let me know what would be interesting reading for you. Feel free to ask any questions or give an idea for a column.