Baseball may be coming back to the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds.
A selection committee was formed at a meeting of the Nueces County Commissioners Court last week in order to consider the possibility of bringing another baseball team to Fairgrounds Field through a licensing agreement.
The stadium has been vacant since August when the Coastal Bend Aviators' season ended. In October, the county terminated the team's contract and is now looking to file a lawsuit to recoup about $20,000 in rental fees.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Oscar Ortiz was selected to serve on the committee, along with court administration director Steve Waterman and purchasing agent Elsa Saenz. A representative from the county attorney's office, as well as one from Global Spectrum, the firm managing the fairgrounds, will also be part of the selection committee.
County officials expressed relief at finally moving past the public backlash from the Coastal Bend Aviators' departure in October and towards getting a replacement team to take over the stadium.
"We're finally getting around to giving this the attention it deserves," Ortiz said. "We're now focusing on getting down to the nuts and bolts of getting an agreement together. Baseball is big here - the interest continues to be there."
Ortiz said the county is currently in talks with the Continental Baseball League and United League Baseball, both independent leagues, about bringing a new team to the area.
The Continental Baseball League, which celebrated its inaugural season this year, currently has four teams, but league officials said in October that plans are in the works to add six teams by next year. In addition, the league has a total operating budget of about $250,000, compared to $750,000 to $1 million for other independent leagues, so costs for those looking to attend a game would theoretically be low, league officials said.
United League Baseball celebrated its inaugural season in May 2006 and has six teams. ULB chief executive officer Brad Wendt could not be reached for comment.
Ortiz said it is still undecided on whether a new team will be brought to the area or if an existing team will be relocated, but added a new team is more likely.
"Both of these leagues are in expansion mode, so they've got room to create a new team," Ortiz said. "We'll have to check their lineup and see how many home games they're going to have."
The number of home games may be critical to a team's success since the Aviators' average attendance was only about 1,400 a game this season. Those attendance figures were third worst out of the 10 teams in the American Association of Independent Baseball. But county officials said that statistic is also being taken into consideration, making the need for an attractive product that much more important.
"I think what's important is to get an organization that will provide inspiration and motivation for fans to come out to the game," Ortiz said.
County officials also expressed their desire to have the stadium in use all year long, either through spring training, high school or college baseball tournaments, or winter league play. Winter league teams would have the benefit of not competing directly with the Corpus Christi Hooks, the AA-affiliate of the Houston Astros, which play their games during the summer.
Kelvin Moore, general manager of the fairgrounds, said it would make sense to have winter league play, but added all options would be considered by the committee.
"That's definitely an option," Moore said. "One really can't tell until we narrow down our options."
Global Spectrum has not announced whom it will choose to serve on the selection committed on its behalf, Moore added.