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 an important
tool in revitalizing an area. The best example that comes to mind is the
Harrisburg Senators located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In 1980, after three
decades of decline, Harrisburg was one of the most distressed cities in the
nation. It had lost its credit rating and faced bankruptcy. By 1988, under
the leadership of Mayor Stephen Reed, Harrisburg had become the leading city in
economic growth among those with a population 50,000-75,000. The turn around
of the city gained recognition when Harrisburg was named the second best
investment city in eastern United States. Harrisburg officials have identified
several benefits that the