April 7, 2005

THIS YEAR WE'RE GOING, PROMISE...:

For small cities, hope is a diamond: Manchester, N.H. looks for renewal (Jenn Abelson, April 7, 2005, Boston Globe)

Small cities across the country are turning to minor-league baseball stadiums to revive their aging downtowns. Nowhere are the dreams more ambitious than here in Manchester, where a ballpark opens tonight on a swath of land deserted by manufacturers decades ago.

Large mounds of dirt and gravel now surround the $27.5 million home to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. But soon enough, swanky townhouses and a Hilton hotel with ballpark views will rise from the 26-acre complex on the banks of the Merrimack River, the largest urban renewal project the city has ever undertaken.

Over the past 15 years, more than 100 new minor-league ballparks have been constructed across America as communities from Albuquerque to Zebulon, N.C., have moved to capitalize on the resurgence of interest in minor-league baseball to spark new downtown development.

Manchester, New Hampshire's largest city with a population of 108,871, is hoping to duplicate the successes of Memphis and Louisville, Ky., with their minor-league baseball teams. Since the city's Louisville Slugger Stadium opened in 2000, more than $110 million in new development has started to replace old rail depots and scrap yards, according to Chad Carlton, a city spokesman.

''It's created a huge hub of activity and has spurred a huge renaissance," Carlton said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 7, 2005 10:02 AM
Comments

Nice new ballpark in Peoria, IL where the Peoria Chiefs, one of the Cardinal's single A reams play. Pujols had a cup of coffee there a few years ago. Actually, I think he went more or less straight from Peoria to the majors.

Try to take in at least one game a year there while visiting the wife's family.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 7, 2005 10:33 AM

I prefer minor league ball (Akron Aeros) to the majors (Cleveland Indigenous Persons):

1. I can actually afford to take the family.

2. There are no bad seats.

3. The players are more enthusiastic.

4. My kids have just as much fun as at the majors.

Posted by: Mike Morley at April 7, 2005 11:34 AM

The new parks aren't a long-term guarentee of economic input into ther community. El Paso built a brand-new stadium a decade ago for their Class AA team, but this past season the team was bought and moved to Springfield, Mo. El Paso's trying to get a Triple-A team into Cohen Stadium for the 2006 season, but for 2005, there's a nice empty field on the north side of town.

Midland starts it's Texas League season today in their four-year-old ballpark, which gets a new name now that Citibank has bought the bank that had naming rights (CitiPark?). Anyway, April 30 is George W. Bush Bobblehead Doll Night, but they'll also have Randy Velarde bobblehead dolls for the Democrats in attendance.

Posted by: John at April 7, 2005 11:35 AM

If the environment is nice enough for people to stick around after the game, it should work to revitalize downtown. Otherwise, people just drive in, park, go to the game, and go home. That is certainly the case with the Trenton Thunder and the Newark, NJ independent league team. The value to the taxpayer is negligible.

Some minor league teams like the Hudson Valley Renegades have nothing but night games it seems, so why would you stay after it's over especially when it's like 9:30PM and you have brought the kids?

Posted by: bart at April 7, 2005 11:57 AM

We've got the Sky Sox here. They're the Rockies' AAA team, and they're sort of the mini-Rockies: the park is at 6300 feet altitude, so breaking balls don't break much and your average middle infielder can hit the ball five hundred feet on a warm day. But it's fun, cheap seats are $5, good seats are $9, everything's $2 on Tuesdays and on Fridays they have fireworks after the game.

Posted by: joe shropshire at April 7, 2005 12:00 PM

Omaha Royals, here. We've got Rosenblatt Stadium, a lovely AAA ballpark which has been around for some time but is no less beloved than that. Going to games there is a real treat, and every so often my family and I make reservations to eat in a restaurant overlooking the first base line.

Rosenblatt is legendary among college baseball enthusiasts, since it is home to the College World Series. Speaking of which, next year we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of one of the most unsung sports moments of all time: LSU's Warren Morris, who was unable to so much as swing a bat a week earlier, slamming a home run with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the national championship and strike down the evil, godless Miami Hurricanes.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 8, 2005 1:05 AM
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