The Times West Virginian

March 23, 2013

Minor league team coming to Morgantown

Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — It appears minor league baseball is coming to Morgantown.

A press conference held by Pat O’Connor, President of Minor League Baseball and Ben Hayes, President of the New York-Penn League, will be held Tuesday morning in the Coliseum.

It’s expected that a team, probably in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ system, will play in the new stadium that is going to be built at the University Town Center with tax increment funding. It will share the stadium with the WVU baseball team, which this year is playing most of its “home” games away from what has been the home stadium, Hawley Field, which the school had deemed inadequate to host Big 12 baseball.

It is hoped that the stadium will be ready for a team to move in in the spring of 2014.

WVU athletic director Oliver Luck has led the move for a new stadium and is using the plan he used as general manager of Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo as a model. That franchise used both sales and property tax TIF to build a $100 million soccer stadium.

This stadium will be built on a smaller scale.

“This one’s going to be much, much smaller (in cost) obviously, but we’re using the same concept, and I know that it can work because I’ve gotten to witness it firsthand,” Luck said when announcing the plan. “I used the property and the sales tax TIF, so I understand how both work.

“We talked to the developer and had a lot of discussions over the last five weeks or so, and decided this would be a good thing for the developer, a good thing for the Morgantown area and a good thing for the University.”

There has been a similar relationship between Penn State and the State College Spikes, sharing the school’s Lubrano Park since 2006.

Hayes spoke about this issue last summer.

“I met with Oliver, I met with the developer, I met with state Sen. Bob Beach. I met with some of the council members. I was up there for the economic summit that occurred, trying to get an idea how the area does economically,” Hayes said.

“There’s a lot of that that goes into it, figuring out whether or not the market is going to fit the New York-Penn League long term.”

Hayes admitted he came away impressed.

“I can’t tell you how impressed I am. It’s a small market, there is no doubt about that. It’s not Staten Island or Brooklyn, but those aren’t typical for short-season clubs. Morgantown is typical of a short-season club’s city,” he said.

“I think it’s a good market,” Hayes continued. “Economically, I think it’s a stable market with growth potential. The people are very friendly, very sports oriented and very loyal to West Virginia University, and that’s a great thing.”