Dunkin' Donuts Park, home of the Hartford Yard Goats, finally opened its doors Thursday evening, thus concluding a protracted and oft-controversial saga in which funding shortfalls and subsequent disagreements between the city and a private developer forced the team to spend the entire 2016 season on the road.
Dunkin' Donuts Park is the only new Minor League ballpark to debut in 2017; its delay, however unfortunate, did result in the extension of a notable streak: at least one new Minor League ballpark has opened in each of the last 38 seasons.
This streak is set to continue in 2018.
The Augusta Chronicle reported April 8 that construction is underway on a new ballpark in North Augusta, South Carolina. This facility, located on the Savannah River waterfront, will serve as the home of the South Atlantic League's Augusta GreenJackets. The GreenJackets, Class A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, currently play across the state line in Augusta, Georgia.
Recent Minor League ballparks do not have a good track record in terms of opening on time. El Paso's Southwest University Field (2014) and Biloxi's MGM Park (2015) preceded Hartford in experiencing construction delays, but hope, of course, springs eternal. North Augusta's "Ballpark Village" (part of a larger development project dubbed "Project Jackson") will result in the GreenJackets' departing their current home of Lake Olmstead Stadium after 29 seasons. The team has released a "final season" ballpark logo and is marketing the 2017 season with a tagline "Leaving the Lake, Ruling the River."
Hawks eyeing new nest
The GreenJackets and Boise Hawks share an ownership group, Agon Sports. And while the Hawks are not as far along in the process as the GreenJackets, they are making distinct strides toward the construction of a ballpark that would replace 28-year-old Memorial Stadium.
Last month, the Hawks -- Class A Short-Season affiliate of the Colorado Rockies -- issued a press release concerning recent ballpark developments. The proposed facility would be located in downtown Boise on land currently occupied by St. Luke's Health System.
"[Developer] Greenstone Properties has reached terms with St. Luke's Health System on the 11-acre property," read the press release, with Hawks president Jeff Eiseman going on to state that "this was a critical piece in putting the stadium and development puzzle together."
The proposed stadium would also host a professional soccer franchise, which prompted the Idaho Statesman to run a detailed Q&A on the specifics of bringing a team to the area. In the piece, Eiseman is quoted as saying "2019 is the aggressive goal, while 2020 is the conservative goal."
A new Kentucky home?
The Lexington Legends (Class A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals) played their first season in 2001, in tandem with the opening of Whitaker Bank Ballpark. 2017 marks the team's 17th season in the facility, but there have recently been rumblings regarding the constructoin of a new downtown ballpark. Lexington's WKYT recently reported that proposals are being accepted for the development of what is currently a "17-acre parking lot that sits across the street from Rupp Arena."
Grand Slam Development has submitted a bid that includes a "new baseball stadium that would be home to the Lexington Legends."
"Literally since the first week I've moved here, I've had people say, 'Oh man, I wish it was downtown or I can't believe it's not downtown," Legends president Andy Shea told WKYT. "The vibrancy that it would create and allow and enhance in downtown would just be absolutely fascinating."
Keeping baseball in Beloit
The Beloit Snappers have finished last in the Midwest League in attendance each of the past four seasons, averaging approximately 1,000 fans a game during that time. The low totals at the gate can at least partially be attributed to the team's home of Pohlman Field, a decidedly no-frills facility. For Minor League Baseball to succeed in Beloit over the long term, a new ballpark will be necessary.
Last month, Minor League Baseball president Pat O'Conner made an "enlightening and positive" visit to Beloit to "acknowledge the need for a new stadium as a long-term solution to keep affiliated baseball." O'Conner met with the Snappers' board of directors and later reported that he was "impressed with the breadth and depth of the work that has been done" and thus "saw a glimmer of hope."
"You do not have to worry about Minor League Baseball coming in and taking your team from you," he said. "It's yours to keep or it's yours to lose; it's that simple. I'm not here with threats; I'm here with the stark reality that the game of baseball in the last 25 years has moved beyond Beloit today."
Beloit has hosted a Midwest League franchise since 1982, the year Pohlman Field opened.
Malden "rounding third"
The ongoing attempt to bring a Minor League team to the Boston suburb of Malden continues apace. Yesterday, the Boston Globe reported that Alex Bok, the developer behind these efforts, had "signed a letter of intent with the current owner to buy a Minor League team affiliated with a Major League franchise."
Bok went on to say that he expects the purchase of the team, which he is currently prohibited from publicly identifying, "to happen sometime by the end of September."
This yet-to-be-named team would play in a proposed 6,000-seat, privately financed ballpark.