Since 1958, Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, Colo., has served as the home of the Junior College World Series. In 2012, the venerable facility will host Minor League Baseball for the first time.
The Grand Junction Rockies, Rookie-level affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, were formally introduced at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. The Pioneer League entity relocated from Casper, Wyo., where they were known as the Casper Ghosts. The team's majority owners are brothers Charlie and Dick Monfort, who bought the team in January. The brothers serve as primary owners of the parent Colorado Rockies as well, and have been involved with that franchise since its 1993 inception. Casper Ghosts general manager Tim Ray has moved with the team to Grand Junction and will oversee day-to-day operations of the franchise.
Given the ownership group and Grand Junction's western Colorado location, it's no surprise that the team will be carrying the Rockies name.
"Grand Junction is the largest city here in the western slope of Colorado, and it's very important to us to spread the gospel of Rockies baseball," said Ray, speaking just before Tuesday's press conference. "It makes sense for us to hang on to the coattails of the parent club."
In conjunction with this philosophy is the Grand Junction Rockies logo, which was unveiled at the press conference. The team will be utilizing the same purple, silver, and black color scheme of the parent club, but one key detail has been changed.
"We've added one community touch, and that is that instead of the [Rocky] mountains, ours features a mesa," said Ray, referencing a defining aspect of the Grand Junction landscape.
As for why the team has moved to Grand Junction, Ray stated that it was a simple matter of economics.
"We had good fans in Casper -- there just weren't enough of them," he said. "We'll now be playing in a county of 146,000 people, and this gives the Rockies the opportunity to extend their brand within the state of Colorado."
Ray also touted what he refers to as Grand Junction's "extremely strong baseball tradition." In addition to the aforementioned Junior College World Series, 62-year-old Suplizio Field also hosts the Colorado Mesa University baseball team as well as a variety of local high school squads.
The Rockies, who as a short-season club don't begin play until mid-June, will be competing during a time of year in which Suplizio Field has largely gone unused. The team signed a 15-year lease to play at the city-owned facility, which is in the midst of an $8.3 million renovation project. Among the myriad improvements is an entirely new outfield wall, as well as new concession areas, restrooms, press box and hospitality suites. An additional $800,000, some of which is being contributed by the team's ownership group, will go to insure that Suplizio Field is up to Minor League Baseball playing standards.
While Tuesday's press conference served as a formal introduction, Ray stressed that the club is already up and running. More staff will be added following December's Baseball Winter Meetings, and team merchandise should be available shortly.
"We're in full swing right now," said Ray.