FRESNO, Calif. - The ownership transfer of the Fresno Grizzlies, Triple-A Pacific Coast League affiliate of the Houston Astros, has been made official. Michael Baker, along with partners Ray Baker and Jim Coufos, have assumed the role of managing general partners (see attached bios). Derek Franks, after serving as executive vice president and general manager, will continue to lead the front office staff in day-to-day operations as the newly-appointed team president.
The new ownership group of the franchise, Fresno Sports and Events, assumes control from former managing general partner Chris Cummings and Fresno Sports Management. The incoming group has agreed to a lease at Chukchansi Park guaranteed to keep the Grizzlies in Fresno through 2036. The Fresno City Council vote on the new lease was unanimous, 7-0.
"This is the right group at the right time to own the Fresno Grizzlies," said Derek Franks. "In working with them through this entire good-faith negotiation, it's clear they are proud to be doing business in Fresno, and it's yet another example of progressive-minded leadership that will help unleash the full potential of this downtown. We also owe many thanks to Chris Cummings and his group for their commitment and patience to make sure this transition was done correctly."
Baker's group is wasting no time improving the fan experience at Chukchansi Park. New construction projects will soon be underway, and Fresno Sports and Events has renewed focus on affordability and commitment to Fresno:
· A new hospitality area/gathering place will soon be under construction down the left field line, immediately making Chukchansi Park a more modern facility similar to other Triple-A ballparks and high-level minor league stadia. Fans will have the opportunity to be more social during Grizzlies games.
· The most inexpensive 18-ounce beer at Chukchansi Park will be five dollars, beginning this season on opening day. This is a reduction from the cheapest beer price being eight dollars in recent seasons. The goal is to have all beers be five dollars at Chukchansi Park.
· The Grizzlies are staying in Fresno, period. Furthermore, Chukchansi Park will be available more frequently for community events at zero cost to organizers. Examples include, but will not be limited to: High school baseball games, art shows on the concourse and board meetings on the function room level of the stadium.
"As the new owners of this team, and newcomers to the Central Valley, we expect to have to earn your trust, and we will," remarked Michael Baker. "We're welcoming in as many non-profit groups as we can, to truly make Chukchansi Park a community gathering place all year long. Folks interested in taking advantage of the ballpark should be in touch with our community fund."
"Fan experience is of the utmost important to us," continued Baker. "Beyond making a typical evening at Chukchansi Park more affordable, we need to make sure the Fresno Grizzlies are still leaders and trend-setters in Minor League Baseball with everything we do; promotions, hospitality, and helping develop future championship talent for the Major League level."
The Fresno Grizzlies home opener is Tuesday, April 10 at 7:05 p.m. Individual-game tickets for the 2018 season are now on sale online and in-person at the Chukchansi Park ticket office. The full promotional schedule for the coming season can be found at FresnoGrizzlies.com.
FRESNO SPORTS AND EVENTS: BOARD
Derek Franks- President, Fresno Grizzlies (2015 Pacific Coast League Executive of The Year)
Derek Franks began his tenure with the Grizzlies in 2004 as an intern and progressed through the sales ranks, eventually becoming Executive Vice President and General Manager of the organization in March 2014. Born in Avenal, he attended Kingsburg High School and graduated from Fresno State in 2006. Under his leadership in 2014, the Grizzlies set a single-season merchandise revenue record at the time, and earned the highest grossing single-game ticket and corporate sales marks since 2008. Over four full seasons as General Manager, Franks has overseen a continued bolstering of the Fresno Grizzlies and "Fresno Tacos" brand both in Central California and nationwide; with 2016 setting a new bar thanks to another all-time merchandise sales record for the franchise. Under Franks' leadership, the Fresno Grizzlies have grown from a regional brand to trend-setters in the world of minor league sports, as their giveaways, theme nights and philanthropy continue to make national news as each season's promotional events take shape.
Ray Baker- Owner, Fresno Grizzlies
Ray has been involved in the banking and real estate industry for the past 35 years. A Pueblo, Colorado native, he has played an active role in the non-profit industry, as well as community banking and real estate transactions throughout the metropolitan Denver region and the Western Slope of Colorado. In 1986, he co-founded the Gold Crown Foundation, a non-profit based in Colorado dedicated to improving the lives of Colorado youth through sports and enrichment opportunities. Mr. Baker has served as the Chairman of the Metropolitan Stadium District (Coors Field) since 1989 and has served in that capacity under five different governors from both political parties. Ray is a current board member of Alpine Banks of Colorado, Gold Crown Foundation, Land Title Guarantee Company, and MDC Holdings.
Jim Coufos- Owner, Fresno Grizzlies
Jim retired as a managing director of Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (GS) as well as a managing director of its Spear, Leeds & Kellogg, LLC subsidiary (SLK) in April, 2005. Jim joined SLK as vice president in August 1986, to establish a corporate services and new business department. He became a managing director of SLK in 1991, overseeing corporate services and new business for the firm's New York Stock Exchange specialist business. GS acquired SLK in September 2000 and Jim remained as a managing director of GS. Prior to joining SLK, he spent eighteen years on the staff of the NYSE, where he served most recently as a managing director of corporate services and new business. Jim is an active member of several charities, and currently sits on the investment and audit committees for Hoag Hospital. He served Hoag for nine years until recently terming out from the foundation board, for which he previously served as chairman. He also served on the Hoag Hospital board. Previously, Jim sat on the Boards of The Gladney Fund, Southwestern Law School, PBS SOCAL and The Alliance for Children's Rights.
Mike Baker- Owner, Fresno Grizzlies
Mike is President of Gold Crown Management, a commercial real estate firm based in Denver, Colorado since 1972. Gold Crown Management owns and manages a portfolio of commercial real estate properties including apartments, industrial buildings, parking lots and other assets. Mike is responsible for all asset sales, purchases, and leasing activities within the firm's portfolio. Mike is a graduate of the University of Kansas with a degree in business, and is a current board member for SafeHouse Denver and the Denver Preschool Program. Previously, Mike served on the Reisher College Scholarship Committee for six years.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.