Friday, September 14, 2007

A cautionary tale for Leominster's baseball plans

Last spring, when details of a potential minor league baseball stadium in Leominster were unveiled, I wrote the following in opposition of the plan:
The city needs to be 100% sure that a team will be successful before it helps to build a ballpark. Unlike an indoor arena like the Tsongas Arena in Lowell or the Verizon Center in Manchester which can be used to host hockey, basketball, tennis, boxing, curling, and other concerts and civic events year 'round, a ballpark is what it is. Other than the occasional concert while the home team is on the road, or perhaps hosting a baseball event like an MIAA state championship, when a ballpark is empty there isn't much use for it. The worst thing that could happen would be to build a ballpark and then have it sit empty ten years down the road because an independent team or league has folded.
Now the city of Lynn, which hosted one of the more successful independent minor league teams in the region, is confronting the same dilemma Leominster could face if they build a stadium:

After five seasons, the independent baseball team will be folding once the series is over, unable to attract a big enough fan base to make team owner Nick Lopardo's multimillion-dollar investment pay off, a top league official said.

"He simply didn't draw enough people," Miles Wolff, the league's commissioner, said in a telephone interview from Canada. "He gave it everything he had for five years, but it just didn't work out."

According the the story the team, which is playing for the Can-Am League Championship this weekend, was third in the Can-Am League in attendance. If a potential league champion with one of the highest attendance figures in the league is folding after five seasons because it is losing money, why would the city of Leominster risk building a $16 million stadium complex for a similar experience?

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