Jul 15, 2021 - Sports

Minor league baseball's sleeping giants

Data: MILB, MLB; Logos: SportsLogos.Net; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Forty-three minor league teams lost their MLB affiliation in 2020's restructuring, leaving some ballparks awaiting new fates.

The state of play: Some teams went independent or joined the new MLB Draft League. But in cities where minor league baseball disappeared, the challenge is now deciding what to do with those sleeping giants — and how to pay for it.

  • Some clubs have welcomed college teams as tenants, some have turned to the exploding youth sports industry, and other stadiums are destined to become multipurpose/concert venues.
  • Of note: Renovating ballparks is expensive (~$5 million), and demolishing them isn't cheap, either (up to $1 million).

Between the lines: A stadium isn't just a stadium. Or at least, it doesn't have to be.

  • Using ballparks to anchor larger real estate development plans has become a more standard practice, even in minor league towns.
  • But that can be risky. Just ask Staten Island, which opened a new outlet mall next to its minor league park in May 2019, one year before the pandemic wiped out the season and two years before its team got swept away in the restructuring.

What to watch: The bipartisan Minor League Baseball Relief Act was introduced in Congress on June 24. If passed, it would provide up to $550 million in funds to minor league clubs.

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