Joplin City Manager Sam Anselm says council members, during a closed meeting recently, decided not to pursue a professional team for Joplin next year. City council wants to wait until litigation moves further with owners of Joplin's former baseball team, the Blasters.
Anselm says Joe Becker Stadium will have temporary uses next year with non-professional teams. Some of those teams could be affiliated with the Joplin Sports Authority, or the Joplin Outlaws. But the city manager says a new professional baseball team in Joplin could come from the Pecos league for the 2018 baseball season.
The head of the Pecos League, based in Houston, Texas, says success of a new team in Joplin depends, in part, on a team name.
"Joplin, number one, has to have a team called the Miners," says Pecos League Commissioner Andrew Dunn.
Dunn's ideas have caught the attention of City Manager Anselm. Anselm says Dunn is straightforward, addressing in a general way not only what it'll take to get a new professional team in Joplin, but also how to use taxpayer's money wisely.
"I said I'm looking forward to having you at that discussion table for 2018," says Anselm.
"There has to be local blood in the team. When I say local blood, that may not be local ownership, but there's got to be local people who are in charge and connected to the community, who have say in what goes on with that baseball team. That's what has to grow for Joplin to get where it needs to be. I have ten teams. I've seen a lot of cities the same size as Joplin, I've seen success, and I've seen failure. Joplin is a place that people are very committed to what they have control in," says Dunn.
Dunn says, though, that the city won't get a contract similar to what was struck with the Blasters.
"No chance," says Dunn.
Lease payments from a team to use Joe Becker Stadium will have to be much less, Dunn says. But he also says there's a way to help the city pay-off renovation work done on Joe Becker.
"The city needs to be included, possibly, in a concession ticket, parking share, revenue share. The city needs to be paid for that stadium by whoever is there. And I think that will be the hardest problem, is to get somebody paying upfront or guaranteeing payments. Making the payments is going to be a challenge. It's a challenge in a lot of these cities, not just Joplin," says Dunn.
Anselm says he and other city officials are willing to use more city resources to help a new team, as long as there's two-way communication.
"When you look back on the Blasters... with the two leases we signed with them, I'd say the city upheld its end of both of those leases," says Anselm.
"It needs to be something that works for the City of Joplin first, not for the team. Its got to be something that the council, the city, and citizens say OK, this is good for Joplin," says Dunn.
Anselm says Dunn's business approach has made him the front runner, for now, of people and organizations interested in permanently calling Joe Becker their home base.
Anselm also says he has heard about some people interested in buying the Blasters name for a new team in Joplin. The city manager says the former owners of the Blasters, members of the Suarez family, are no longer part of the American Association of Independent Baseball.
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