Tag Archives: San Antonio Missions

MPEV occupant lines up a big-league affiliate

The San Diego Padres are coming back to Amarillo, Texas.

Amarillo’s upcoming minor-league baseball season has cleared yet another hurdle. The Padres used to be affiliated with an earlier Amarillo baseball franchise. They’re back in the fold with the new team that doesn’t yet have a name.

It is getting a ballpark, though. Bit by bit, the multipurpose event venue is going up along Buchanan Street. They hope to have the venue complete by April 2019, when the AA season commences in Amarillo.

Given the progress I’ve seen — albeit from some distance these days — I am no longer going to doubt the project will be done in time for the team to toss out the first pitch next spring.

The San Antonio Missions are moving to the Panhandle from South Texas; San Antonio will be home to a new AAA franchise that is relocating from Colorado Springs, Colo.

The next big question now appears to be: What are they going to call this new Amarillo baseball team?

I’ve done a 180 on this one. I once hated the Sod Poodles name that showed up on the list of finalist names being considered by the Elmore Group, owners of the new Amarillo team.

I am not entirely crazy about the name today, but the thought of the name has grown on me. I now officially hope that Sod Poodles, or some derivation of the name, becomes the name of the new team that will take the field.

But … the city that is remaking its downtown district — with new hotels, entertainment venues and a serious dressing up of street corners — has a new major league baseball affiliation about which it can boast.

Not bad.

Now we get to wait for the first pitch

I likely won’t be around when they throw out the first pitch, but I’ll be cheering the event nevertheless.

Amarillo’s Local Government Corporation has secured a deal that brings organized baseball back to the city. It comes in the form of the San Antonio Missions, which will depart the Alamo City and relocate in the Panhandle in time for the start of the 2019 season.

This is a good deal. It’s a huuuge deal. It revives the hope of those of us who want to see the city build that multipurpose event venue downtown and want to see the city’s central district restored in a new fashion.

The Elmore Sports Group, owner of the Missions, wants to move to Amarillo because of the promise of the downtown ballpark that will be erected across the street from City Hall. It will cost $45.5 million — give or take — and it will be funded primarily with hotel occupancy tax revenue.

According to the Amarillo Globe-News: “We are very excited,” said D.G. Elmore, group chairman. “We have moved teams at various times in our 36-year history of owning ballclubs, and as I reflect, I don’t think there is a time we have seen the level of business support like this.”

“In many ways, it’s unprecedented,” Elmore said. “This type of support is fantastic.”

Is this project criticism-free? Hardly. We are going to hear from those who do not believe the city should invest so heavily in its downtown district. They want the city to spend money on other areas, on other neighborhoods, on other projects.

What I see happening is a revival that is going to ripple across the city. The MPEV/ballpark will generate considerable interest for the city’s downtown district. That interest translated directly into revenue for the city. That revenue can be spent — wisely, of course — on myriad projects and improvements all across Amarillo.

Now that the LGC has received the commitment it wanted from the Missions, work can begin in earnest on specific design plans for the MPEV. Crews have cleared out the lot. The Coca-Cola distribution center that once occupied that downtown property has relocated to a business park on the east side of the city.

The sounds of baseball being played downtown will be new to those who have lived here for any length of time. My wife and I have called Amarillo home for more than two decades. Our life is set to change in due course as we continue to prepare for our relocation.

The city’s life is about to change, too. Also for the better.

Affiliated minor-league baseball is returning to Amarillo, which used to be home to the Gold Sox, a team affiliated with the San Diego Padres of the National League. And that makes the Missions’ relocation somewhat poetic and symmetrical, as that team also is part of the Padres organization.

There’s much to do. But with the announcement today that the Missions have signed on the dotted line, the LGC can claim much work has been done already.

Let’s get busy.

How about that MPEV? Any news … at all?

Amarillo’s new City Council will take office very soon with a heaping plate of unfinished business.

Downtown revival is proceeding nicely. But the city has this big ol’ vacant lot across Seventh Avenue from City Hall that it’s got to fill with something. They knocked down the old Coca Cola distribution plant and relocated it to a business park near Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

That something happens to be a ballpark/multipurpose event venue. You remember it, right?

Amarillo voters in November 2015 approved a “non-binding referendum” that authorized the city to spend $32 million on the MPEV. The cost of the structure has escalated a bit since then, to around $45 million.

But the city has assured residents it will be built. Some things must happen before we start busting up pavement. First and foremost is that the city needs a commitment from a minor-league baseball franchise to come to Amarillo. The council formed a Local Government Corporation to lead the negotiation with owners of the San Antonio Missions, which is looking — one still hopes — for a new place to play some hardball. San Antonio wants a AAA franchise; the Missions are a AA outfit.

Meanwhile, Amarillo is without baseball of any kind since that joke of a team vacated the city to relocate in Grand Prairie. Why did the team bolt? They didn’t have an adequate place to play ball.

The MPEV is supposed to solve that issue. It will be a shiny new venue that will serve many purposes in addition to being the home field for an affiliated minor-league baseball team; the Missions are part of the National League San Diego Padres organization.

City Hall has been quiet about the MPEV negotiations, which might be a good thing. Lame-duck Councilman Randy Burkett popped off a few months ago about a deal he said was on the verge of being struck, but LGC chairman (and former mayor) Jerry Hodge quashed any hope of an imminent deal; he said the LGC was still working on it and said he was “ashamed” of Burkett’s big mouth.

We’ve got five newbies coming aboard at City Hall. Let us hope they can nudge the negotiation along, with the help of City Manager Jared Miller. My faith in the LGC’s ability to finalize a deal remains fairly strong.

The MPEV issue, though, has tested many residents’ confidence that the city can deliver on its promise to bring minor-league baseball back to Amarillo — and to put it downtown.

Welcome to the thick of the fray, City Council.

Here’s why minor-league baseball is good for Amarillo


I’ve spoken already about my hope that Amarillo can reel in a baseball franchise that would play ball in a new downtown ballpark.

What I want to explore briefly here today is why the potential new franchise is so much more desirable than what the city has at this moment, which is a “franchise” in name only.

The current baseball team calls itself the Texas AirHogs. It is an “independent” team that splits its home schedule between Amarillo and Grand Prairie.

When these guys play their Amarillo half of their “home” schedule, they suit up and perform at the Potter County Memorial Stadium, which in reality is a dump.

I’m not sure what next season will bring us. The AirHogs might go somewhere else next year. They might devote their full home schedule to Amarillo. Or, they might decide to stay full-time in Grand Prairie.

The push now is on to lure a Double A franchise from San Antonio. The Missions are affiliated with the San Diego Padres of the National League. The Padres appear to be a well-run major-league franchise. They produced a Hall of Fame outfielder, the late Tony Gwynn. Indeed, Gwynn finished the 1981 season in Amarillo, hitting .462, which was a precursor to the brilliant career he forged with the Padres.

Amarillo is no longer a one-horse burg known only for Cadillac Ranch and the gigantic steak. We’re on the cusp of passing the 200,000-population barrier; we might already have passed it, for all I know. We are blessed with a healthy local economy and an increasingly diversified work force.

The city has committed to building a downtown ballpark. It cost is about $50 million. Demolition and construction will begin perhaps later this year. The city is now negotiating with the sports group that owns the Missions to bring that franchise to the Top of Texas.

My hope is that the city can sell itself to the Missions, persuade them to come here, rather than go somewhere else. My expectation doesn’t yet match my hope, but the gap between them is narrowing.

The Amarillo City Council has done a good job of jerking my emotions around. The council occasionally says the right things to assuage my concerns about the direction the city might be going. Then some council members blurt out intemperate remarks that get people’s attention — for the wrong reasons.

An affiliated minor-league baseball franchise would be wonderful for Amarillo. That it would play baseball in a new venue downtown would produce a fine return on the investment being made in that venue.

Again, this only is a hope, but I think it’s a reasonable one: The crowds attending baseball games downtown could bring plenty of what we could call “recreational revenue” to many of the businesses that would be clustered in the downtown district.

I will presume the city is negotiating with the group that owns the Missions is bargaining in good faith. If it comes to pass, as one council member has suggested will happen soon, then the city will reap the benefit.

How do I know that? It’s happened thousands of times already in many American cities. It surely can happen here.

I believe it will.

Amarillo’s baseball quest has gotten complicated


I thought for an instant — that’s all it was — that I was hallucinating.

The headline on the front page of the Amarillo Globe-News said something about Lubbock making a bid to land a Double A baseball team: the San Antonio Missions.

They did pull plans to build a stadium, but then they might dangle some other incentives and seek to lure the team from the Alamo City to the Hub City.

Hold it!

Isn’t that the goal of the Amarillo City Council, too? Are we now competing head to head with our major municipal rival for the same prize?

I don’t know the particulars of the Lubbock initiative and I know only some of what Amarillo has up its governmental sleeve as it seeks to land the baseball franchise.

Here’s what I do fear, though. I fear that Amarillo’s recent spate of in-fighting, back-biting, name-calling and otherwise  uncivil behavior among members of its City Council might not play well in the Missions’ board room as it ponders where to relocate its baseball franchise.

It’s not as though San Antonio — the second-largest city in Texas — is going to lose anything. The plan there is to bring in a Triple A franchise to replace the Double A team that’s departing.

I’m not going to get into which city is the West Texas top dog. Lubbock has more residents than we do. It does have a Division I public university. Amarillo has its charms, too. We’ve got more scenic splendor nearby with Caprock Canyons and Palo Duro Canyon state parks. And, hey, we’ve got Cadillac Ranch, too!

We also have had our share of recent tumult at the center of our municipal government.

We’re going to start clearing the land to make room for that multipurpose event venue. The MPEV is slated to be home for a lot of activities, anchored — it is hoped — by a baseball franchise.

I won’t predict how this will turn out. The Lubbock entry into the baseball sweepstakes, though, does complicate matters.

Do you think it’s time Amarillo starts pulling together?

As a friend of mine noted in a message to me this morning, “Amarillo’s council members should now be incentivized to forget pettiness and unite to get the Missions to Amarillo, because the longer it drags out, the greater the chances other suitors will emerge.”

City seeking a commitment to use MPEV


Amarillo wants a commitment, a signed contract from the potential tenants who’ll want to play baseball in the city’s proposed downtown ballpark.

I get it. What’s next, though, is beginning to get a bit murky.

San Antonio’s Missions baseball team declined to sign a letter of intent to move from South Texas into the proposed MPEV in downtown Amarillo.

Amarillo’s Local Government Corporation is going to proceed with negotiations with a sports group that owns several baseball franchises, including the AA San Antonio Missions.

The Missions might move to Amarillo after San Antonio lands a AAA franchise that will play in a stadium there.

Amarillo Deputy City Manager Bob Cowell says it’s still a possibility, but that the city has “less breathing room” than it had before.

I’m getting a bit nervous about this. I don’t seriously doubt the merits of what Amarillo wants to do. I am beginning have concern that the LGC is capable of nailing down the commitment from the Missions to actually move here by, say, 2019.

Amarillo wants to open the MPEV for business by the spring of 2018. A city official in the know told me today that the city plans to start knocking down the now-vacant Coca-Cola distribution center on the MPEV site later this summer.

If the Coca-Cola site is demolished, it should stand to reason to expect that construction on the MPEV would commence shortly thereafter. Is that right?

Well, have we seen any design yet? Has the city received a definitive cost of the ballpark/MPEV? It started out at $32 million, but the cost rose to about $50 million when the LGC announced plans to go after the AA franchise.

I understand the reason for the inflated cost.

What’s beginning to make me sweat, though, is whether the LGC is able to juggle all the balls required to ensure that we’ll have a tenant in the MPEV when the city cuts the ribbon to open it.

I will remain optimistic. With caution.


Who’s on first in the Texas League?


Left hand, meet the right hand. Right, say “hey” to left.

Someone — and it’s difficult to discern who — isn’t talking entirely straight regarding a possible baseball franchise move from one city to another in Texas.

A consultant who works with the San Antonio Missions of the Texas League apparently has told downtown Amarillo officials that the Missions might like to consider moving to Amarillo once the city build its downtown ball park.

Oh, but wait! Tom Kayser, president of the Texas League, said the Missions aren’t moving anywhere. Kayser said Rich Neumann, the consultant working with Brailsford & Dunlavey, isn’t speaking for the team or the league or anyone else he can think of.

The third principal here is Melissa Dailey, head of Downtown Amarillo Inc., who told the Amarillo Local Government Corporation of the Missions’ possible move. I don’t recall her saying anything was set in stone, or that any other pledges had been made.

Yes, it’s a bit confusing.

Something is amiss. Someone might have spoken out of turn down yonder in San Antonio without telling the league president of the intention.

It’s been reported that San Antonio wants to upgrade to a AAA farm club; the Missions are a AA team affiliated with the San Diego Padres of the National League. Amarillo’s baseball fortunes currently are tied to an independent organization that in the next season will play half of its own homes in Grand Prairie. So, with that, Amarillo is looking to upgrade as well, to a AA team with a Major League Baseball affiliation.

So, let’s get all this straight. OK?

Many of us in Amarillo want to see some movement in the right direction as it involves the city’s baseball future.

First things first. How about we determine with absolute certainty whether the discussions we’ve been told have occurred with the San Antonio Missions are the real thing — or are they just a diversion?



MPEV action gets a stunning jump-start


Well, now. It appears that Amarillo is in the hunt for a serious tenant for a proposed multipurpose event venue — with a ballpark — to be built in the city’s downtown district.

The city has been home to independent baseball teams for quite some time. As it has been noted, they come and go. Next year, the Amarillo Thunderheads are going to merge with the Grand Prairie AirHogs and will split their “home” games between the two locales.

Now comes word that the Local Government Corporation is going after an affiliated Class AA team, possibly the San Antonio Missions, a farm club linked with the National League San Diego Padres.

This team might want to come to Amarillo and play its home games in the MPEV.

Here’s what City Councilman Randy Burkett, a member of the LGC said to NewsChannel 10: “A AA team takes most of the risk out of it. An independent league and an independent team is very risky. They are here today and gone tomorrow in some cases. Not all cases, but with AA baseball, you’re a league affiliate with Major League Baseball. They’ll come in here and sign a 30-year agreement with us and then we’ll know we will have an affiliated team here for 30 years.”

Interesting, yes?

There will be hurdles to clear. The LGC has to get a design done by April, under the timeline it and the City Council have set. Will the MPEV’s planned 4,500 permanent seats be enough for a AA baseball team? Will the MPEV’s estimated $32 million price tag hold up?

The city has changed its mind on whether to pursue an independent team. It has decided to pursue an affiliated minor-league franchise.

With a new ballpark officially on the table, the inducement has become decidedly more attractive.