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Baseball returning to Edmonton river valley with Riverhawks, new West Coast League team

Meet the new Edmonton Riverhawks Baseball Club
WATCH: The Edmonton Riverhawks baseball will be the 15th franchise in the West Coast League when it begins playing at RE/MAX Field in June 2021. John Sexsmith has more on the team being put together by Baseball Edmonton, which is led by former Oiler Dr. Randy Gregg.

The Edmonton Riverhawks are the newest baseball team in the West Coast League, becoming the 15th franchise in the collegiate summer league.

The team will start playing at RE/MAX Field in the river valley in June 2021.

Read more: Prospects proving baseball belongs in the heart of Edmonton

“We are very excited to bring one of the best summer collegiate leagues in all of North America to Edmonton,” said Randy Gregg, managing director of Baseball Edmonton.

“In the 2019 Major League Baseball Draft, 90 West Coast League players were picked, including the number one and number three selections.

“Local sports fans will be able to see future major league stars while they are playing in Edmonton during their college careers.”

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The Riverhawks will play 27 games at RE/MAX Field and another 27 on the road. They become the first WCL team outside of British Columbia, Washington and Oregon.

In June, the Edmonton Prospects announced they would be moving to Spruce Grove.

Plans for new Edmonton Prospects baseball field in Spruce Grove released
Plans for new Edmonton Prospects baseball field in Spruce Grove released

Gold Sports, which owns the Prospects, said it had partnered with Victor Moroz with Metro Horizon Corp. to privately fund a new complex to host the team.

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The Prospects play in the Western Canadian Baseball League.

Prospects managing partner Patrick Cassidy said the news of an Edmonton West Coast League team didn’t come as a surprise.

“Our league’s not really that happy with what’s been going on.

“We’ve had a good relationship with the West Coast League, probably going back to their inception in — I think — 2005. We’ve respected territories. We’ve stayed out of theirs and they’ve stayed out of ours.

Cassidy said both leagues offer “a summer college product so it’s a similar product.”

“I think the importance of baseball leagues is to keep those footprints smaller so you can reduce travel,” he said.

“Edmonton was always a key franchise in the Western Canadian Baseball League and this throws a monkey wrench into some of our plans as far as the league is concerned.”

Read more: Plans for new Edmonton Prospects baseball field in Spruce Grove released

In May, a group led by former Edmonton Oiler Gregg, agreed to a 10-year lease to operate RE/MAX Field. After lengthy negotiations, Gregg said the group of 20 people was awarded the decade-long lease to operate the Rossdale ballpark.

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Edmonton Prospects’ future at RE/MAX Field uncertain after 2019 season ends
Edmonton Prospects’ future at RE/MAX Field uncertain after 2019 season ends

Gregg himself won five Stanley Cups with the Oilers. He’s now a medical doctor as well as managing director of Baseball Edmonton.

The founders group also includes Dale Wishewan, the owner of Booster Juice; D’Arcy Durand, an orthopaedic surgeon; and Gary Gregg, who oversees Gregg Distributors. In addition, there are another 24 shareholders with a shared goal of keeping baseball in Edmonton’s river valley. Gregg said:

“We are committed to welcoming amateur sports, arts, culture and music groups down to the ballpark to create a real sense of community.”

“We want to be inclusive and all those events are important parts of our plan to attract more people to one of the most impressive outdoor stadiums in Canada.”

Read more: Former Edmonton Oiler part of group set to operate RE/MAX Field

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Baseball Edmonton has plans to upgrade the ballpark with new artificial field turf, a new scoreboard and new stadium lighting.

“Baseball Edmonton has a great vision for not only bringing top amateur baseball to Edmonton, but also for RE/MAX Field and for bringing people down to the river valley to experience a beautiful part of our city,” Coun. Michael Walters said.

Baseball to stay in Edmonton after Randy Gregg-led group signs 10-year agreement
Baseball to stay in Edmonton after Randy Gregg-led group signs 10-year agreement

Cassidy said he thinks there’s a way both the Prospects and Riverhawks can exist in the Edmonton area simultaneously.

“We think the market here is strong enough to support both franchises.

“I’ve been a proponent actually going back a few years now of a team in Spruce Grove and one in Edmonton, but of course both within the Western Canadian Baseball League.”

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“We’re in the entertainment business and I think once things get back to normal here, I think people are going to be eager to get back to the ballparks, enjoy the sunshine, family time,” Cassidy added.

Read more: Okotoks Dawgs to host 2021 Western Canadian Baseball League All-Star Game

He said the Prospects will focus on some exciting things coming down the pipe, including some new initiatives around sports tourism, a new ballpark and growing the team’s fan base.

“We’ve been down at RE/MAX Field since 2012,” Cassidy said. “We’ve gone from 6,000 to 60,000 fans in that time period… We want to take that energy to Spruce Grove.”