Talk of a new 10-year lease at the ballpark in the river valley took a turn Wednesday when Edmonton City Council’s Community Services Committee heard about interest from a U.S.-based affiliated team, and some big-picture ideas about how to further develop RE/MAX Field.
A report released last Thursday confirmed the current lease on RE/MAX Field is going to wrap up at the end of the current baseball season, dropping next year’s fifth-year option that is held by the Edmonton Prospects of the Western Canada Baseball League.
Part of the reason the city dropped the option year is because of unsolicited interest from another team.
Don Stewart, representing an entity he called Professional Baseball Alberta, made a presentation to the committee, identifying a team in the short-season class-A Pioneer League as being a possibility, the Orem Owlz, a farm team of the Los Angeles Angels.
“As most of you are likely aware, you can’t sell beer in Utah at a baseball game. And beer and baseball go hand in hand,” he told the committee. He said they play a 72-game regular season, with 36 home dates.
Stewart said travel considerations aren’t as cumbersome as post-Sept. 11, when more than half a dozen teams affiliated with major league parent clubs left Canada, including the Edmonton Trappers of the Pacific Coast League.
“The idea of getting across the border for these kids and so forth has been modernized,” he said, pointing out the stability of affiliated ball. “The continuity is the thing we’re talking about here. Once you have major league affiliation these franchises aren’t sold every day.”
The city is looking at entering into a 10-year lease to have the operator maintain the ballpark. Stewart told the committee that time frame helped them decide to investigate the possibilities.
“We commenced discussions with potential people who could move. That’s a lengthy process. It’s not something that could happen for next year at all. It’s at least two to three years out because you have to have approval of the league governors.”
The prospect of affiliated ball, which caught the attention of city councillors, is causing concern for Edmonton Prospects operator and GM Patrick Cassidy, who intends on bidding on the new ten-year lease. Now that there’s competition he’s reluctant to identify aspects of his bid.
Watch below: There are questions about the future of RE/MAX Field, specifically who will be playing in it. It stems from a new city report which says the current agreement with the Edmonton Prospects will not be renewed. Vinesh Pratap reports. (Filed April 5, 2019).
Cassidy does not see a way two teams can co-exist in a condensed summer season.
“I don’t know. You can’t put two minor league teams trying to attract the same market to the ballpark, do the same things especially in such a condensed time frame. We’re talking two-and-a-half months, and one league plays 30-some games and we play almost 30 games, so you have almost a game every day. I just don’t think the market would work with that.”
Councillor Michael Walters wants to try.
He said the goal is to get the ballpark used more, even when a game isn’t happening. The committee has asked administration to consider opening up possibilities like commercial tenants such as a micro-brewery, craft brewery or restaurant.
“This is really about thinking bigger about the park, and the kind of amenity that it can be for the citizens of Edmonton for much more of the year.”
Walters wants to make sure RE/MAX Field doesn’t get lost in the larger conversation about the redevelopment of West Rossdale.
“I’m not the kind of political leader that’s ever chained myself to anything before or laid down in front of a bulldozer, but when it comes to this ballpark I just might be.”
The committee did not set a deadline on how long they’ll accept proposals.