New stadiums, rumors of new stadiums and rumors of rumors of new stadiums will always be a key component of the Minor League Baseball experience. Here's a look at some ballpark stories worth following.
The Old Becomes New: In Richmond, Va., Norwich, Conn., and Eugene, Ore., new teams are playing in old facilities. After a one-year hiatus from hosting professional baseball, Richmond's The Diamond is now the home of the Eastern League's Flying Squirrels franchise. The 25-year-old facility has undergone a series of renovations and improvements, but the only way the city's long-term baseball future can be secured is with the construction of a new ballpark (the club's current lease is for just two seasons).
The Flying Squirrels relocated from Norwich, where they played as the Connecticut Defenders, but Norwich's Dodd Stadium won't be dormant for long. The Norwich Tigers (formerly of Oneonta) start their season in June, at which point Dodd Stadium will become one of the most spacious ballparks in the Class A Short-Season New York-Penn League.
Finally, the Eugene Emeralds will be playing at PK Park in 2010, after four decades at Civic Stadium. The team's new home opened in 2009 and is owned by the University of Oregon.
As Good as New: The Harrisburg Senators have called Metro Bank Ballpark home since 1987, but in recent years it had become best known for a preponderance of bleacher seating and nightly mayfly infestations. No longer is that the case, as a two-year, $45 million renovation project has resulted in new seating areas, corporate suites, scoreboards, kids area, concession stands and restrooms (to name just some of the overwhelming array of improvements). We'll see about the mayflies.
Coming in 2010: The Omaha Royals have spent the past four decades in Rosenblatt Stadium, a mammoth structure perhaps best known as the annual home of the College World Series. But next year, the Pacific Coast League club will relocate to nearby Sarpy County. Ground broke on the construction of a new ballpark last August, and the 6,000-seat facility is slated to open in time for the 2011 campaign.
On the Horizon?: Given the seemingly infinite variables involved in the financing and construction of a new ballpark, it can be tough to predict the outcome of any given situation. That said, the following three cities are currently angling for new facilities:
Augusta: The GreenJackets have made no secret of their desire to move to a new downtown location, but the political maneuverings necessary for this to become reality have not yet occurred. So for now, the team will continue to have to make do with 15-year-old Lake Olmstead Stadium.
Nashville: The Sounds would love to trade in Greer Stadium for a ballpark located in the city's far more vibrant downtown area. Many specific sites have been proposed, and talks with the city government are ongoing, but an agreement has yet to be reached.
Portland: The Beavers are playing their final season in PGE Park, as the stadium will be converted to a Major League Soccer facility in time for 2011. So where does that leave one of the Pacific Coast League's most enduring franchises? A variety of new ballpark locations have been proposed but none approved, and relocation is a possibility.