Minor League Baseball: Boom or Bust to Communities?
Despite the occasional disappointment, minor league baseball provides many communities with economic development and an improved quality of life. Communities as small as Elizabethtown, Tennessee or as large as Phoenix, Arizona have shared the common bond of being the homes of major league farm teams. This is referred to as the National Association of Professional Baseball, or more commonly known as the "minor leagues." As the popularity of major league baseball seems to be decreasing due to the recent player strike, free agency, and anti-trust labor laws, minor league baseball has generated excitement that can only be associated with baseball in the good old days. This excitement is a purity of spirit which the majors no longer possess. "It is baseball in its simplest form-- just ball, bats, gloves, and lifelong dreams. The parks are generally small, the players, hardworking young men whom local fans are likely to run into the next day at the mall or maybe the corner bar. A family of four can see a game, eat dinner--maybe even pick up a souvenir or two--without having to consider a second mortgage. No lockouts, no holdouts, no five-dollar beers, and the umpire is the only one who can call a strike. "Just the national pastime, played the game it is," says one editor of The Minor League Baseball Book.
There are currently 156 teams that are part of the National Association of Professional Baseball. This number will grow in the next few years with the addition of two expansion teams at the major league level. There have also been a number of independent leagues formed which are said to be the "future of minor league baseball." The success of these teams have shown how the value of these franchises have grown over the past ten years. In the past, class AAA teams would sell for three hundred thousand dollars while a smaller class A team went for fifty thousand. Today the class AAA teams are being sold for as high as five million dollars while class A teams are going for around one million. The best example of the fact that franchises have grown in value over the years is the Reading Phillies. Joe Buzas, a minor league baseball entrepreneur, has owned and operated twelve minor league teams in seventeen cities since 1956. In 1976, Buzas bought the Reading Phillies franchise for $1. Ten years later in 1986 he sold it for $1,000,000.
The addition of minor league baseball to communities can provide many benefits. The greatest benefit is the overall economic lift that minor league baseball brings to a community. Minor league baseball provides additional jobs. Initially, local individuals build the stadium. This project takes from six months to a year. An average of 15 full-time and 125 part-time individuals ranging in age from high school students to older, retirees are employed at the stadium.
The stadium will be beneficial if it's useful for the baseball fan as well as any resident. For approximately seventy nights a year, a stadium will provide an opportunity for the baseball fan to view professional baseball up close, to identify future stars and to follow their careers, and to get a glimpse of current major league players who occasionally are assigned to a minor league team for rehabilitation purposes or who are in the last stages of their career. The stadium, however, should be more than that. It should be a community facility that provides many types of recreational resources. A new stadium is capital improvement and should have a life of more than two decades. If the stadium and team are to be evaluated as a true community resource, they must serve the entire community. If a stadium is utilized during the winter months, when baseball is not played, not only will a community's quality of life be enhanced, but the economic development function of the stadium will be maximized as well.
The addition of minor league baseball to an area can be...
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