New Pitch for Triple-A Baseball

Article excerpt

Hoping to score right off the bat, Jacksonville's new Economic

Development Commission has begun a search for an owner who can

bring Triple-A baseball to town.

"A Triple-A franchise is ours to lose," said Tom Petway,

chairman of the month-old commission. "It is critical that we

surface an ownership group."

Meeting as a group yesterday for only the second time, Petway

assigned commission member Dan Connell to quickly seek out a

would-be owner for a new minor league team.

Triple-A is the level of baseball just below the major leagues.

Jacksonville now has a Double-A team.

The Triple-A organization plans to field two expansion teams in

1998 and sent a delegation to scout Jacksonville as a possible

site.

To have a shot at a team, Petway said, Jacksonville needs to

quickly identify an ownership group that can pay the $7.5

million fee required for a new franchise.

Connell, an executive with the Jacksonville Jaguars of the

National Football League, said he expected the city could hear

from interested parties.

City officials and the owners of the city's Double-A team, the

Suns, have stated enthusiasm for such a franchise. But to date

Jacksonville has no formal bid for a team, and no formal

agreement to build the 10,000-seat stadium that a Triple-A team

would require.

City-owned Wolfson Park, where the Suns play, seats about

8,000.

Professional baseball is having difficulty finding suitable new

Triple-A cities, said Suns General Manager Peter Bragan Jr. The

organization had set a deadline of last year for cities to apply

for the new teams. However, Bragan and city Finance Director

Mike Weinstein, the development commission's interim director,

were visited a few weeks ago by members of the organization's

expansion committee, still in the market for sites. …