Randy Gregg is the managing director of Baseball Edmonton. After lengthy negotiations, Gregg said the group of 20 people was awarded the 10-year lease to operate the Rossdale ballpark.
“We got a group together, not of investors. We have teachers, we have a principal, we have an accountant, we have a few doctors, we have some mothers with small children,” Gregg said.
“What we wanted was not just a bunch of investors, we wanted some people who really represented the community of Edmonton to be able to give us some direction of what the city might want.”
In November, the City of Edmonton and the owner of the Edmonton Prospects agreed to a one-year extension to the current deal the team has to play at its Rossdale ballpark. Gold Sports, which owns the Prospects, will operate RE/MAX Field in 2020.
However, at the time, the city said it was still pursuing a long-term strategy for the ballpark.
Gregg said his group hopes to keep the field’s current tenants, the Edmonton Prospects, playing at the ballpark. He also hopes another Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) club can be added.
“What I hope we get is really exciting, entertaining baseball — well-coached, young players who want to play as hard as they can.”
But that’s not all. Gregg said the group has a vision of turning the facility into a hub for minor baseball development.
“Possibly a 12-month-a-year, indoor facility to shoulder seasons around the WCBL where we have young kids going and practising, going to camps or playing at RE/MAX Field,” Gregg said.
“I’m hoping that every young boy and girl who is interested in baseball or softball someday gets a chance to play at RE/MAX Field. I think that would be a thrill for them all and maybe entice them to continue on with the sport.”
The group also believes the facility, in the heart of Edmonton’s river valley, should offer more than just baseball to the community.
“It should be an entertainment venue,” Gregg said.
“We’re really interested in collaborating with the music community and the arts community in Edmonton to really utilize this facility as much as it can be. I think if we do our job well, not only will this be good for many of the young people in the community, our spectators and fans, but also people outside of baseball to really utilize this landmark facility. The city is certainly behind us on that.”
While the goals may sound lofty, Gregg said the group has the money and the experience to make it happen.
“We’re committed to the capital expense to make this facility, to bring it back to its proper condition,” he said.
“It’ll be a wonderful place to go down there, and we hope baseball and these other events will be a big part of that.”
Future for the Prospects likely won’t be in Edmonton
In a statement Friday, the Edmonton Prospects baseball club said it was disappointed to hear about the deal between the city and the new group.
The club said it firmly believes the vision it presented for the ballpark and the 10-year lease “aligned significantly with the great strides the Edmonton baseball community has achieved since the team first began playing at the ballpark in 2012.”
However, the team also said it respects and embraces the fact the city chose to go in a new direction.
“We wish the city all the best in their future endeavours. This remains one of the top baseball venues in Canada and must be treasured and preserved,” the statement from Pat Cassidy, managing partner of the Edmonton Prospects Baseball Club, said.
While the team also wished the new group led by Gregg well, it said it has begun negotiations to operate with an alternate plan for 2021 so that “we can address ticket holders and sponsors interests.”
“By 2022, it is our plan to be up and operating in a new modern and very exciting venue in Spruce Grove,” Cassidy said.
“Although it is true that our goal was to expand our baseball footprint two-fold in the Edmonton and metro region, circumstances sometimes dictate and force decisions that do not always align with what was initially planned and preferred.”
Cassidy said the team will share more of its “new vision for baseball” with fans and sponsors as it becomes available.
“While one door sometimes closes, another often opens and we want all baseball fans to know that our door in Spruce Grove will always have a large WELCOME sign posted boldly over the entrance,” Cassidy said.
“Please come, the beer will be cold, the hot dogs hot and the fun and camaraderie you will experience will be rich, rewarding and memorable.”
In a statement, the City of Edmonton said it has signed a statement of intent with Gregg and the group to operate RE/MAX Field when the current agreement expires on March 31, 2021.
“We are moving forward in finalizing the negotiations to complete a formal lease agreement and will be in a position to discuss details once this is completed,” the city statement reads.
“We are supportive of the group’s vision for the facility, its commitment to advancing baseball in Edmonton and continuing to ensure community access to RE/MAX Field.”
The field is currently closed due to provincial health orders in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 10-year lease begins next April.