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New Jersey Cardinals headed to State College

Altoona Curve ownership group to move team into new Medlar Field
October 4, 2005
There are still a few details to be ironed out, but the long-rumored sale of the New Jersey Cardinals became official late Monday afternoon when the club announced it had entered into an agreement to sell the team to Curve Baseball, LP.

After spending a dozen seasons in North Jersey, the franchise will relocate to State College, Pa., for the 2006 New York-Penn League season and play at the new Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. The 6,000-seat facility, which cost $24 million to build, will also be the home to the Penn State baseball team. It is expected to be completed by June, in time for the opening of the NYPL season.

The new ownership group, which also owns the Altoona Curve of the Double-A Eastern League, will rename the club from a list of five possible nicknames -- Anglers, Coalys, Furnace, Haymakers and Spikes. An announcement will be made regarding the new nickname within a few weeks.

The sale will be complete once the relocation is approved by the New York-Penn League, Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball, all of which are expected to endorse the move. The team also will remain a St. Louis affiliate, at least through 2006 when the current player-development contract expires.

In addition, because the team will be located in such close proximity to Williamsport (about 75 miles), Curve Baseball, LP had to get approval from and work out an agreement with the Crosscutters. According to Chuck Greenberg, Altoona's president and managing partner, the club also had to work out a financial and operating agreement that will benefit both franchises.

"We did infringe on Williamsport('s territory), but we spoke with them and worked out an arrangement that is pretty comfortable, one that not only protects Williamsport but enhances them," Greenberg said. "It has to do with joint marketing. And it gives Williamsport a true regional rival. We're really pleased about that."

Greenberg's group had been looking for a team since shortly after it purchased the Curve in 2002. They met with Penn State athletic department officials, who were looking to add a baseball facility that could be tied into a Minor League franchise. Because the weather in April and May in the Northeast can be spotty and the Nittany Lions will be playing baseball through the end of May, a New York-Penn League team was the logical solution.

The Cardinals were originally purchased by Minor League Heroes, LP in 1991 and moved from Hamilton, Ontario to Glens Falls, N.Y., before heading to Augusta, N.J., for the 1994 season. The team was immediately a hit with the fans in the Garden State, setting a league attendance record and finishing first in its maiden season. They've only had two winning seasons since, and attendance has dropped steadily from 176,788 in 1995 to an all-time low of 115,129 this year.

Cards general manager Tony Torre said the sale of the team was not unexpected and there have been rumors of such a move for several years.

"Our owners have said the team was always for sale for the right price," Torre said. "The last few years, several people have made offers to buy the team and keep it in Sussex County or buy the team and relocate it. We've been through it every year for the last four or five years, so this isn't a surprise.

"Eventually we knew this was going to happen. We knew the owners weren't going to keep the team forever. They're businessmen and they weren't going to turn the team over to their children. We knew at some point they would sell it."

Torre said the sale of team was the result of several factors, not just the losing record and dwindling attendance (season tickets have dropped from 2,100 in 1995 to 1,000 this season). The influx of Minor League and independent league baseball in New Jersey has robbed the Cardinals of some of their fan base.

The club also had issues with the lighting at Skylands Park, which the team did not own. And there were concerns about the facility's overall upkeep, which factored into the decision, according to Torre.

"We just faced a number of obstacles," Torre said.

Whether Skylands Park remains vacant or even standing is now an issue. There are rumors an independent team might move in, and the facility could be leveled and replaced with an outlet mall.

Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for