City OKs Rockies’ farm club deal

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Grand Junction is no longer a baseball town without a professional baseball team.

The Grand Junction Rockies will call Suplizio Field home starting in June 2012 after Monday’s unanimous vote by the Grand Junction City Council to approve a lease agreement between the city and GJR LLC.

“How it seems to us is a win-win for everybody,” City Manager Laurie Kadrich said after the vote.

The agreement starts with a 15-year deal and has a Rockies’ option of three five-year extensions. Once Kadrich finished going over the agreement, it got a quick round of approval by the council.

With an $8.3 million stadium improvement under way, another $800,000 of improvements is needed to meet Major League Baseball’s requirements for minor league teams.

The Rockies have agreed to pay $100,000, and the Parks Improvement Advisory Board has pledged another $100,000 to expand the current locker room facility and training room at the stadium, plus building office space for the club.

The council approved the remaining $600,000 over the next two budget cycles. The improvements must be completed by June 1, 2012.

The Rockies will pay $25,000 rent annually, with a maximum of 42 home games and a $500 rental fee per home game. That fee increases $100 every five years. There is a buyout clause of up to $100,000 if the club leaves before the end of the lease agreement.

Suplizio Field is busy from February through early June with Colorado Mesa University and District 51 high school baseball games, then the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.

After JUCO, however, only a handful of games are played at Suplizio over the summer.

“It fills a period of inactivity at Suplizio Field,” Mayor Tom Kenyon said.

Rob Schoeber, the director of the Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Department, said his grounds crew is ready for the challenge.

“You know how Eddie and the boys are,” Schoeber said of supervisor Eddie Mort and his staff. “They’re up for the challenge. It’s great because when you think about it, that field sits vacant from the last game of JUCO until the following spring when Mesa gets going again. This is a perfect fit.”

The negotiations took roughly six months, Kadrich said, with several sticking points to work through.

The Rockies agreed to adjust their schedule around high school and CMU football games in the fall, and to work with the city on other events at the stadium, including the annual July 4 fireworks show.

Another hurdle was liquor sales, a must for professional baseball. The city will secure a tavern liquor license, with the Grand Junction Rockies managing beer sales during their season. When that season is over, the city will take over the license again.

The city will receive 1 percent of revenue from liquor sales and a proportional payment toward the annual tax and licensing fees.

“It will be very similar to a major league game,” Kadrich said. “They will have their own security, will cut off sales in the seventh inning, all those things that are in place with Major League Baseball.”

The deal also has the approval of Jamie Hamilton, the chairman of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.

“Of all the times we have looked at this, this has the opportunity to be the best fit with the Junior College World Series, with the strength of the Bakers and them understanding the not-for-profit side of it,” Hamilton said.

Ray and Michael Baker are minority owners of the rookie club, with the majority owned by Dick and Charlie Monfort, the principle owners of the Colorado Rockies.

The city has scheduled a press conference Oct. 26 with Kenyon, Dick Monfort, Tim Ray, who will come from Casper to be the general manager, and Hamilton, and will discuss the move in more detail.

Early estimates for revenue generated by the club predict attendance at 1,500 per game, with an annual income to the city expected to be $80,000 the first five years and $96,000 the next five years.

Hamilton has heard from several baseball fans about having a pro team in town.

“People that have heard the rumors are coming out of the woodwork,” he said. “They’re excited to go see minor league baseball games.

“The first two or three years will be gangbusters for these guys.”



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