Helena could lose Pioneer League team to Colorado Springs
Colorado could soon have a second Rookie-level minor league baseball team.
Elmore Sports Group, which owns several minor league clubs, announced plans to shuffle its minor league teams Wednesday in a move that could put the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, currently the Milwaukee Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate, in the Pioneer League starting in 2019.
The proposed move would place a second Colorado team in the Pioneer League, with the Sky Sox replacing the Helena Brewers as Milwaukee’s Rookie-level affiliate. According to a release by the Elmore Sports Group, the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate would be relocated to San Antonio, currently the Double-A affiliate of the Padres. The Padres plan to relocate that team to Amarillo, Texas, where a new stadium is under construction.
Pioneer League President Jim McCurdy stressed that many things have to happen for the moves to pan out, but expressed excitement for adding a large market to the Pioneer League.
“Colorado Springs is a Triple-A market, and I think that’s really apparent,” McCurdy said. “We’re aware of plans in place to potentially move the Sky Sox into our league and we definitely think it’s an attractive market.”
McCurdy said the league would address divisional realignment, potential travel partners and other scheduling needs if the moves are approved by Minor League Baseball.
The Sky Sox currently play at Security Service Field, which seats 8,500. The capacity is similar to Suplizio Field and Lindquist Field in Ogden, Utah. Colorado Springs finished last in attendance in the Pacific Coast League in 2016, averaging 4,220 fans per game. They’ve finished in the bottom half of the PCL for attendance every year since at least 2005, including several seasons with fewer than 4,000 fans per game. Although those attendance figures are among the worst in Triple-A, it’d be one of the best in Rookie-level baseball.
Geographically, the Sky Sox would be a natural fit in the Pioneer League’s South Division, pairing them with Grand Junction and the two teams from Utah. Idaho Falls would likely move to the North Division.
If that’s the case, Grand Junction Rockies manager Frank Gonzales said the adjustment would cut down on travel time and allow Gonzales, a Colorado native, a chance to see family in the area.
“I’d be all about it,” Gonzales said. “We’d go Ogden, Orem, Grand Junction, Sky Sox. That would change our travel a little bit and I think that part is interesting. That’s a neat thing. I know Colorado Springs, I have family there, so I’d be all about it.”
Grand Junction Rockies President Joe Kubly declined comment, saying the move hasn’t been finalized.
Both the Helena Brewers and Colorado Springs Sky Sox made statements regarding the proposed move.
Helena President Paul Fetz said in a release that the Brewers are still committed to the small Montana market until the move.
“Despite the news, we still have two more seasons in Helena and it will be business as usual,” the release read. “We will continue to give our fans and sponsors a great value and experience. We look forward to continuing to create lasting memories for our fans and the city of Helena and hopefully bring home another Pioneer League championship.”
The Sky Sox, using Twitter, said the move is what’s best for the franchise.
“This move creates a stable and long term (sic) solution that will keep professional baseball in Colorado Springs for decades to come,” the tweet read.