A history lesson about “baseball in Edmonton” is still on the Edmonton Prospects front page. It is not an opinion piece, it truly is a history lesson. That is why Dr. Randy Gregg’s most viable option for a baseball team in Edmonton would be a second team in the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL). It still does not excuse what appears to be his trying to strong arm the league but I digress.
The first article to this website was “Will There Be Baseball in Edmonton in 2021“? Listening to the recent Alberta Dugout Stories Podcast, Prospects Owner Pat Cassidy was point blank asked two loaded questions.
Q) “Are you open to the notion of opening up the territorial rights that you have…?”
A) “I’ve sort of have let it be known that everything is for sale but so far there’s been no offers”
Q) “You are moving to Spruce Grove for 2022 but what about 2021?”
A) “…we floated the idea (to the City of Edmonton) of maybe extending the 5th year option year to a 6th year option year, so if the season was cancelled we could roll our current situation into next year which help us address our season tickets, flex pack sales as well sponsorship deals that we have in place. They basically rejected it outright…we are looking at other options, we are giving ourselves probably to August 1st to find another option. If there are no options, we will ask the league for a leave of absence until 2022”.
Dr. Gregg, whose group was awarded a 10-year lease to Re/Max Field, is also featured on this podcast. He speaks of approaching the Prospects about a revenue sharing program. He speaks refreshingly candid about how with Major League Baseball contracting their minor league system that affiliated baseball is not on the radar. Here’s his response when asked the question that should be on everyone’s mind:
Q) Do you have a timeline for making a pitch to acquire the second team in the Edmonton Area?
A) “Yeah, of course, we would like to do it yesterday. We’ve been talking to a lot of people and of course you know, I…I to be honest with you, if I think possibly if I were a Prospects fan I would feel kind of betrayed that they would leave the City and want to go to Spruce Grove. You know, it sounds like they are being kicked out but they have a wonderful, wonderful option, a very financially lucrative offer to able to stay but you know the good thing about life is you can only dictate what you can decide on. And so we will do what we can to try to entice them to play and if that’s not the case we will try to get a franchise. We think, as I’ve mentioned before, a really good opportunity to have two teams down there. I think Terry Jones said it right in one of his articles that a City the size of Edmonton deserves two teams in the fantastic facility. So we are going to work hard to do that but we can’t force people to do something they don’t feel comfortable with so will just keep working hard in that regard”
Sounds to me if you live Edmonton your best bet to watch baseball in 2021 will be 90 minutes down the road to watch the WCBL expansion club the Sylvan Lake Gulls. I chatted with Aqil Samuel, the General Manager and President of Baseball Operations of the Gulls.
Q) Obviously you would love to have two Edmonton based teams to compete against in your first year in the league but can you please comment on the possible situation of being the closest WCBL team for Edmonton baseball fans to watch?
I’m not 100% sure what is happening with the situation at Re/Max Field, there seems to be a lot going on in the background. We’re hoping that whatever happens it is fair to the Prospects Ownership and best for the league. We want to be playing rivalry games at Re/Max in 2021 and beyond.
Q) The Gulls team owners are the former owner of the Brooks Bombers. Please speak of the transition from Brooks, who have a great AJHL team, to Sylvan Lake, who have Lakeshore Drive along the lake filled with touristy things to do?
That’s right, Graham and Jen Schetzsle, did own the Brooks team for a short time. Being from Central Alberta, and entrenched in the baseball community for years, they saw the opportunity for a WCBL franchise in the area as too good to pass up. After working with the League, the new ownership group in Brooks, and the Town of Sylvan Lake the solution of an expansion franchise in Sylvan was really the best one.
The market in Sylvan is a great one for what we are planning to do. The population is 15,000 people, and within a 50km radius there is a population 244,000 people. There are 1.5 million visitors per year as it is a summer resort community attracting people from all over central Alberta, Edmonton and Calgary. “The Lake Life” is the draw here; as you mentioned Lakeshore Drive is popular but so is boating, fishing, camping, golfing and soon…baseball!
Q) Please give us an update on your ballpark situation? For Edmonton folks like me who only know Lakeshore Drive, tell us what part of town it is in.
Coming up to our Logo and Name Unveil event on March 15th we had some great momentum with potential investors to raise the money that we needed to build out the stadium with the concourse and 10 luxury boxes on the second level. Of course the quarantine started the day after! As it looks like things are slowly coming back online so we are going to resume looking for the money to get the concourse and luxury boxes built for Opening Day of our Inaugural Season, but there is a possibility that we start with the 1000 seats, a berm (potentially 400 people), and lights. The plan would be then to get the concourse and everything built out in the future.
The Stadium is going to be the feature tenant at Pogadl Park, a multi-sport facility the Town is building. It is located on the southwest corner of Sylvan, a quarter section west of 60th st and north of Hwy 11.
Thank you Aqil for your insightful answers. I’ll speak on behalf of many a baseball fan in Alberta who will be taking the day trip out to Sylvan Lake to watch the Gulls and wish you the best of luck.