After months of searching, planning and preparing, the Buies Creek Astros officially took shape on Friday.
The Houston Astros revealed the logos, uniforms and plans for their newest affiliate in the Carolina League during a press conference at Campbell University's Jim Perry Stadium, detailing the future of what will be their temporary affiliate in the Minors.
Buies Creek, the Astros' new Class A Advanced affiliate, will share Jim Perry Stadium with Campbell for the next two seasons ahead of a planned relocation to a permanent home in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Construction is slated to begin on that stadium next summer with a $33 million price tag.
David Lane, general manager of the Greeneville Astros in the Appalachian League, was tasked by Houston with finding a suitable home for the organization's new Carolina League club. He said they chose Buies Creek based on proximity to Fayetteville and facility needs.
"Campbell was our top choice," said Lane, who will now serve as GM of both Buies Creek and the Astros' Rookie-level affiliate in Tennessee. "They have all the infrastructure we need as far as clubhouses, a nice field, the lights were up to code -- everything is already there. It's an easy plug and play, and it was a good process."
Buies Creek will wear standard white Astros uniforms at home and an orange top on the road. The logo is similar to the current Astros branding, with "BC" replacing the "H."
"We basically looked at Greeneville, and it's a good Minor League logo for a team owned by the parent club. We took Greeneville and changed it to Buies Creek," said Lane.
That stands in contrast to the latest trend in the Minors of unusual team nicknames and logos, although Lane said the club will hold a "name the team" contest next summer once construction for the Fayetteville ballpark begins. The plan is for the club to move into a downtown stadium in two years.
Jim Perry Stadium currently has about 600 seats and a total capacity of 1,000, but Lane said the university is currently renovating the ballpark ahead of the 2017 season. Dugouts will be upgraded, a new turf field will replace the grass surface and additional seats and a pavilion will be added. Lane expects the stadium to host roughly 2,000 fans once the job is done.
"It's a little smaller, but we think as a temporary home, it's a good fit for this team," he said.
The Astros will move into Campbell's current home clubhouse, while the collegiate team will shift to a new one. Visiting teams and umpire crews will utilize locker rooms across the street at Gore Arena, a basketball venue inside the school's Pope Convocation Center.
"The arena is really nice -- there's six clubhouses in it, two workout rooms and a full training facility," said Lane. "It's really good. The whole infrastructure is what we were looking for."
Lane said the Astros and Fighting Camels will only have one scheduling conflict in 2017.
"There's one game in April where we're going to play at 1 p.m. and the college plays at 7 p.m.," Lane said. "And then there were two series that didn't line up with the college schedule, but we're moving those. The Carolina Mudcats will take one and Down East [in Kinston] will add four games in May."
"This is a good thing for us here today," said Campbell University president J. Bradley Creed. "We look forward to working together with the Buies Creek Astros. We can't wait for this spring."
From coast to coast
How did Houston arrive in Buies Creek? The Astros opted to leave the California League and their affiliate in Lancaster this offseason, taking advantage of a Class A realignment between the Cal and Carolina Leagues. Bakersfield and High Desert were contracted in California to make room for a pair of new clubs in North Carolina. The Texas Rangers were the other organization on the move as they inherit Grainger Stadium in Kinston as the Down East Wood Ducks.
Lane said he and the Astros considered about a dozen colleges and ballparks as potential homes for Houston's temporary affiliate. The team thanked the nearby Triple-A Durham Bulls for waiving their territorial rights and allowing the Astros to move in.
"I was given the project to search high and low for a place to play for two seasons -- a temporary home," said Lane, who worked with Astros president Reid Ryan and senior vice president of business operations Marcel Braithwaite. "We drove around North Carolina, we took a three-day trek, visited all these places, 12-14 places in North Carolina, and we narrowed it down based on territory rights and proximity to Fayetteville."
Campbell University will oversee the daily operations of the Astros, taking care of ticketing and promotions, while Lane said he'll assist as well.
"It's been an easy transition -- they will run the management side of it and I will assist any way I can," Lane said.
The future in Fayetteville
Long term, the Astros will be about 35 miles south in downtown Fayetteville. Lane said the team is still in the planning stages for the stadium there.
"We're working on design plans right now," said Lane. "The city has an architectural firm working on design plans and we hope to have those in February, and then construction I think wants to start in late summer of next year -- July or August. It's been a good process working with the city on all that. There's no lease signed yet, but we're hoping to have something."
Lane said the stadium is expected to be on Hay Street in Fayetteville.
"We've been blessed to get to work with the city of Fayetteville," said Ryan.
Fayetteville council member Jim Arp said the new stadium and team will be "a game changer for our city." He estimates the club will bring in $65 million in economic development to the city.
"I'm so proud that we have this opportunity," said Arp. "We're really excited about this opportunity. We are in the eighth inning, and we're ready to close this game out.
"It's going to change the atmosphere," he continued. "Bringing Minor League Baseball into a region like this is a big deal and we're so excited. We want everyone to take that little trip down to Fayetteville. We're really excited to have them."