Minor League Baseball Feasability on Champaign Council Agenda
By Jeff Bossert
After about six months of study, a committee exploring the likelihood of minor league baseball in Champaign will make its case before the city council Tuesday.
So far this year, an exploratory committee has been doing the work for the city, looking at the feasibility a minor league team. The group was appointed last winter by Mayor Don Gerard, but at Tuesday’s study session, council could ask city staff to explore the idea further.
If the response is a positive one, the city could seek out locations that will accommodate a minor league stadium. Committee head Tony Johnston said then it is a matter of setting up how to pay for it.
"Some sort of a funding package that would be a combination of private and public funding," he said. "I guess what I mean by that is, the possibility of bonds being a supplemental source of financing to going out an finding private equity to help get the stadium built."
Stadium size depends on the kind of team Champaign wants. Johnston said there’s more potential for long-term success to lure in a single-A level team affiliated with a major league club but he said that also means minimum standards for park design and the number of seats.
"There a minimum restriction on the number of covered seats, the number of backed seats, the number of bench seats, and the number of general admission and lawn seating areas," Johnston said. "So you can't just put a Single-A team in any old stadium."
It’s also possible Champaign could pursue a team not tied to big-league club, similar to the Normal Cornbelters, who began play in 2010.
In May, some Champaign City Council and staff members met with Steve Malliet, the President of the Cornbelters, who said his group had rights to an additional team in the Frontier League in 2015.