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Batting Around: Frisco fans in for a treat?

RoughRiders float idea of 'lazy river' in ballpark; progress in Hartford
January 27, 2016

This column often traffics in bad news, from construction delays to funding disagreements, from team relocation rumors to legal issues. We'll get to all that in a moment. But this time around, let's begin with something that, should it come to fruition, would be unequivocally great.

The Frisco RoughRiders, Double-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers, want to build a "lazy river" swimming area at their home of Dr Pepper Ballpark.

As reported by the Dallas News' Frisco Blog, the lazy river would replace and expand on the RoughRiders' outfield swimming pool. A new "Cabana Bar" and party deck also are part of the equation. The preliminary plans also call for the installment of multiple waterfalls upon which images can be projected.

The city, which owns Dr Pepper Ballpark, allocated $6 million for stadium improvements prior to last season. Of that, approximately $1 million remains. As the Frisco Blog reported, the money will cover the costs of "expanded netting, as well as architectural and design services on the pool. ... Any money left over would go toward the actual pool improvements."

Additional funding for the lazy river would have to be provided by RoughRiders ownership, entering its second season under Chuck Greenberg. The team drew seven of its 10 largest-ever crowds in 2015 en route to leading the Texas League in attendance.

Yard Goats' yard update

As discussed in the previous edition of this column, the Hartford Yard Goats' home of Dunkin' Donuts Park will not be ready in time for Opening Day. The delay is due to a funding disparity that led to a contentious disagreement between the city, which is funding the stadium, and developer Centerplan, which is building it.

Earlier this month, the Eastern League announced a contingency plan that would have the Rockies' Double-A affiliate play its first 34 games on the road, including 17 originally scheduled for Dunkin' Donuts Park. As reported by the Hartford Courant, that proposal has been revised to make the club the away team for a total of 52 straight games, removing 11 more home games from the Hartford schedule. The new projected home opener is May 31.

The new opening date is the result of a compromise overseen by new Hartford mayor Luke Bronin as the parties involved attempt to make up for the approximately $10.4 million shortfall. The Hartford Courant reported that the agreement calls for Centerplan to give up $2.3 million in fees and make additional annual tax payments on the Downtown North Development project of which the ballpark is part. The Yard Goats will pitch in $2 million and give up $500,000 in parking revenue, with the city taking on an additional $5.5 million in bonds issued by Hartford's Stadium Authority. This plan has yet to receive approval from the Hartford city council.

Amid the current turmoil, the Yard Goats announced a bit of good news: they've extended their Player Development Contract with the Rockies through the 2018 campaign.

Mavs scuffle with city

On Jan. 12, the city council of Adelanto, California, voted to end its stadium agreement with the High Desert Mavericks. The Class A Advanced club, currently a Texas Rangers affiliate, has played in city-owned Heritage Field at Maverick Stadium since the facility opened in 1991.

As reported by the Victorville Daily Press, the "city says the public facility use agreement struck in 2012 violates the state Constitution and is essentially a 'gift of public funds' in that the majority benefit is skewed toward [the Mavericks]."

Dave Heller of ownership group Main Street Baseball LLC responded that the agreement is a legally binding contract and that he fully intends to have the Mavericks play at the ballpark this year. This position was further elaborated upon in an open letter signed by Heller and co-owner Jim Coufos and released Tuesday.

"We are writing you to let you know that we at the Mavericks do not agree with the position the City has taken," the letter states, in part. "Our lease, which constitutes a binding legal contract, was negotiated by the City Manager of Adelanto, vetted by City personnel, recommended by both the City Attorney and the Mayor, and approved by the City's duly elected body, the City Council."

The letter further states that the Mavs are asking the city to "engage in formal mediation to resolve the matter." Barring that, the team will "seek to have the lease's validity confirmed through a formal arbitration process."

City spokesman Mike Stevens told the Victorville Daily Press that city officials want to reach an "amicable solution" via the negotiation of a new lease agreement.

Cashman concerns in Vegas

Cashman Field, home of the Triple-A Mets affiliate Las Vegas 51s, is a source of considerable concern for the Pacific Coast League. The team's lease at the 33-year-old facility owned by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor's Authority (LVCVA) runs through 2022. In a letter to the LVCVA published and elaborated upon by the Las Vegas Review Journal, PCL president Branch Rickey III made it clear that the league doesn't want to be there that long. At issue are Cashman Field's "pervasive infrastructure issues," most dramatically exemplified by a sewer malfunction during a game last season.

"The salient point is that the Cashman facility has deteriorated. To assure it will be ready for play beyond 2017 and 2018 might force an expenditure of many tens of millions of dollars and still not provide an optimal long-term solution," Rickey wrote.

He also told the newspaper, "The PCL has no desire to relent on Las Vegas as a territory."

There has been persistent talk of building the 51s a new stadium, but nothing has advanced past the preliminary stage.

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.