Photo | Lagniappe
After the next two Southern League seasons, the Mobile BayBears will most likely move to Madison.
The relocation of the AA affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will still require the approval of Major League Baseball and the SL, but preparations have begun on a local level.
BallCorps LLC, the team’s new Arizona-based owner, has reached an agreement with the city of Madison to have the team move into a new, $46 million stadium for the 2020 season. A spokesman for the company declined to comment, but forwarded questions to owner Ralph Nelson, who did not return a call by press time.
As for the local impact of the move, Councilman John Williams, who represents the area including Hank Aaron Stadium, said the city would have to work to find a new lessee for the ballpark when the BayBears leave. It might be time to think outside baseball, he said.
“I think we ought to be open to all possibilities,” Williams said. “To say we’re searching for a baseball team would be limiting opportunities.”
Although the stadium is about 20 years old, Williams said, it has some positives.
“It’s an awesome space,” he said. “It’s centered in our city. It’s in an awesome location.”
He’s heard ideas about bringing in a soccer or football team, as well as possibly upgrading it to host the Senior Bowl in the future. It could also be home to several high school teams and host college tournaments.
The team just hosted a series of high school games called the BayBears Classic. Teams from across the area competed first at off-site games and then at the professional baseball stadium.
As for news of the move, Williams said he was not surprised. He added it would not have made sense to spend money to build a new facility in order to try to keep the team.
“There wasn’t anything we were going to do to change it,” he said. “We could’ve built a Taj Mahal and it wouldn’t make a difference.”
Mayor Sandy Stimpson and the City Council were recently presented with options for the current Mobile Civic Center property as the results of a facilities assessment were made public. Consulting group CBRE presented two possible plans for the Civic Center footprint, one including a baseball stadium.
While both options include a theater and arena, CBRE Vice President Michael McShea seemed to favor the option that did not include the baseball park. That option included 775,000 square feet of office, retail and residential space. The option including a ballpark only had 355,000 square feet of office, retail and residential space.
As a baseball fan, Williams said he’ll have lots of good memories connected to the BayBears and will enjoy what will most likely be the team’s final two years in the Port City.
“I spent a lot of time there with my family,” he said. “It’ll hold a special place in my heart.”
The BayBears’ 2018 season opens April 5 at home against the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.