When writing about Minor League Baseball team relocations, this term is thrown around quite a bit. That's because there are almost always moving parts, with plans for one locale contingent on what may or may not happen in another. Sometimes three (or more) locations may be involved, each one dealing with its own unique set of circumstances.
For example, prior to the 2012 season, the Kinston Indians relocated to Zebulon, North Carolina, and became the Class A Advanced Carolina Mudcats. Simultaneously, Zebulon's previously established Double-A Carolina Mudcats franchise moved to Pensacola and became the Blue Wahoos.
It's enough to make one's head spin, and it's the reality of the business. A similarly multi-faceted plan is currently under"_blank" way; if successful, it would see the Colorado Springs Sky Sox relocate to a new Triple-A facility in San Antonio, Texas. In a concurrent move, the Double-A San Antonio Missions would relocate to a new facility in Amarillo, Texas. If all goes according to plan, these changes would take effect in 2019.
Both the Sky Sox and Missions are owned by the Elmore Group. The cities of San Antonio and Amarillo would need to obtain the funding for their new stadiums, and both cities seem willing to do so. At an April 7 San Antonio City Council meeting, attended by Dave Elmore, mayor Ivy Taylor announced that "the Elmore Group has committed to bring a Triple-A franchise to San Antonio to play in a new downtown stadium for the 2019 season."
How much this downtown San Antonio stadium would cost, and how it would be paid for, is yet to be determined. The city of Amarillo is further along in this process. In November, voters narrowly approved a nonbinding referendum to build an estimated $32 million ballpark. This estimate has since been raised to $48.4 million, with Amarillo.com reporting that "the extra cost is to make it suitable for a AA team affiliated with Minor League Baseball."
How about one more moving part? The Elmore Group also owns the Pioneer League's Helena Brewers, and a report indicates that that team would relocate to Colorado Springs should the Sky Sox depart for San Antonio.
Sunshine State Stadium Synopses
Osceola County Stadium, located in Kissimmee, Florida, served as the Houston Astros' Spring Training home for the past 31 seasons. The Astros are relocating their Spring Training operation to the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in 2017, but Osceola County Stadium will continue to host professional baseball.
On Thursday, aroundosceola.com reported that "County officials confirmed this week a three-year deal has been signed to bring a Class A [Advanced] Florida State League team to Osceola County Stadium starting in 2017."
It has not been announced what Florida State League team would relocate to Osceola County. One possibility is the Brevard County Manatees, who currently play at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida. Space Coast Stadium recently ended its run as the Washington Nationals' Spring Training home. The Nationals are sharing the aforementioned Ballpark of the Palm Beaches with the Houston Astros. The United States Specialty Sports Association will become Space Coast Stadium's new tenant, likely leaving the Manatees as the odd team out in this equation.
Osceola County Stadium is no stranger to hosting Florida State League Baseball, having served as the home of Houston's Class A Advanced affiliate between 1985 and 2000.
As MiLB.com reported last week, renovations to Lakeland's Joker Marchant Stadium have forced the Flying Tigers to play the 2016 season at nearby Henley Field. Built in 1925, Henley Field has a long history of hosting both Major League Spring Training and Minor League teams. The facility also serves as the home of the Florida Southern College baseball team; Florida Southern is currently in the process of buying Henley Field from the city of Lakeland.
Speaking of major renovations, the New York Yankees' Spring Training home of Steinbrenner Field is slated for a $40 million improvement project. Funding for the project has yet to be approved, but it would be split equally among the State of Florida, Hillsborough County and the Yankees. Construction is expected to be completed before the start of the 2017 Grapefruit League season. The FSL's Tampa Yankees also call Steinbrenner Field home; it is currently unclear if the renovation project could cause the team to temporarily relocate.
Obligatory Hartford Update
On Thursday, the Columbia Fireflies played their first game at brand-new Spirit Communications Park. Hartford's Dunkin' Donuts Park, which is currently on pace for a "substantial completion date" of May 17, is another anticipated stadium debut. The latest construction milestone? About 90,000 square feet of Kentucky bluegrass sod has been laid on the field.
The Hartford Yard Goats' home opener is now scheduled for May 31. Until then, the team is playing all of its games on the road.