Report offers support for minor league team

PARKERSBURG – The possibility of a minor league baseball team coming to the Mid-Ohio Valley has a lot of support, according to a draft report from the consulting company hired to look at its feasibility.

AECOM Technical Services Inc. has completed the first phase of a study to determine support of a minor league baseball franchise in Parkersburg, Mayor Bob Newell said Monday.

Questions were asked about having a Frontier League team in the area, which is a professional independent league that is not affiliated with Major League Baseball. Plans could include the construction of a new multipurpose ballpark in the area.

The study was commissioned by the Wood County Development Authority earlier this year. City officials met last Friday with representatives from AECOM, Rooney Sports Consulting and representatives from the Frontier League.

“Approximately 1,000 individuals and 150 local businesses responded to various questions to gauge interest and financial support for a new baseball park and team from the Frontier League,” Newell said. “The study showed strong support in the Parkersburg market. Just over half of the individual respondents live in Parkersburg and half live in the area, including Ohio.

“Accordingly, 75 percent of the respondents showed a favorable response to the project. The reasons included baseball, concerts and other events that could be held at the facility.”

There were 25 percent of businesses surveyed indicated interest in becoming a sponsor while a large percent indicated they would be interested in buying tickets and holding events, Newell said.

According to the draft report from AECOM, the Parkersburg area appears to be a good fit for the Frontier League, geographically and market-wise.

Current Frontier League teams are located from the Missouri-Illinois border to suburban Pittsburgh, and are generally based in smaller cities (although some are part of major metropolitan areas), the report stated, adding the league and a prospective owner have both shown strong interest in bringing a team to the area.

“Based on interviews with various stakeholders from throughout the area, we believe that there is significant interest in the type of offerings that a new ballpark can provide, such as the ability to attract other sports, entertainment, and community events in addition to professional baseball, as well as interest in purchasing items such as event tickets, premium seating and sponsorships,” the report said. “Local residents also indicated a strong desire to have a new, local entertainment option that does not currently exist in the area.”

The report indicated Parkersburg would be the best location for a ballpark facility, due to its population and business base.

“A facility with a capacity of approximately 5,000 people and various premium and group seating options, as well as the ability to be a multipurpose venue, would be expected to be successful from a market perspective,” the report said. “However, the specifics of its operations and economics would be determined in a later phase.

“Other, more detailed characteristics of a facility and its ability to accommodate additional development would be determined by factors such as selection and analysis of a specific site, financial/budget constraints, additional market research, input from design and other technical professionals, securing a franchise owner/ facility operator, specific terms governing facility development and operations, and others.”

Sam Winans, who co-chairs the Wood County Development Authority’s sports committee, said AECOM was very diligent in the work it did, seeking out more respondents when officials felt more local feedback was needed.

“We feel very positive in moving forward,” Winans said. “We like what they had to say. I think we are all on the same page.”

Winans said officials are working to make sure they have the right people in place to sustain a facility for other uses beyond the 40-50 games during a baseball season.

“We need support from citizens,” Winans said. “We will continue to strive to get this done.”

With positive results from the initial study, officials will be moving to the next phase which will focus on locations, financing options, a business plan and other aspects in the financial viability of such a project.