Citizens Speak: Leaders Respond
Leib report documents citizen support of baseball stadium
The first phase of a $78,000 feasibility study for a new arena and minor league baseball stadium was released by the Leib Group on Nov. 21, 2005. The first phase addressed the market support; the second phase that will examine the financial feasibility was to be released in January but was postponed. The study was commissioned by the City of Owensboro and the Daviess County Fiscal Court. (The Bring Back Baseball Committee contributed $10,000 – approximately half the cost to expand the scope of an arena study to include the baseball stadium.)
A majority of area citizens (60 percent) are interested in minor league baseball in Owensboro. More than a third have a “definite interest.” Attendance projections were also in line with other Frontier League teams and comparable markets.
Citizens also expressed a “very solid response” for concerts: 77 percent “interest” and 44 percent “definite interest.” (The stadium is promoted as a venue for concerts, festivals, and exhibitions, in addition to baseball.)
Survey respondents also had a “strong interest” in baseball season tickets (29 percent), premium seating (19 percent), facility/event sponsorship (16 percent), baseball team sponsorship (11 percent) and facility use for business (20 percent).
The random sample automated survey was conducted on Oct. 25th and 27th and 418 individuals responded. The survey included counties within a one-hour drive from downtown Owensboro.
The market support for a new downtown arena was not as favorable. An arena was examined as a potential home of a minor league hockey franchise, minor league (arena) football franchise, concerts and convention uses.
Conclusions and recommendations
The report includes the following conclusions and recommendations:
“The Owensboro market is in the lower half of the selected comparable and Frontier League markets in terms of both population size and economic strength. However, these differences are not significant enough to preclude the successful operation of an independent league baseball franchise in the market, provided a new stadium is constructed and competent, experienced management is secured for the franchise. The success of other comparable and Frontier League markets is evidence of this.” (Proponents have targeted the Frontier League for the franchise affiliation.)
“A solid, wide-reaching marketing plan combined with excellent customer service and amenities at the ballpark will allow a professional baseball team to thrive.”
“The stadium should be constructed as a multi-purpose facility with the ability to accommodate concerts and festivals, as there is strong interest in, and need for space, for these events as well.”
“A new facility with approximately 3,000 permanent seats that hosts Frontier League baseball, concerts, festivals and other community events would be expected to be supported by the market, in terms of generating an adequate number of events and attendees.”
* * *
Once city and county officials have an opportunity to digest the report, they will reconsider the proposal from the Bring Back Baseball Committee. The committee proposed that local government provide a low-cost land lease and infrastructure for the stadium. The stadium would be owned and developed by a nonprofit corporation and financed with tax free bonds, local lenders and a surcharge on all revenues. A Frontier League franchise would also be owned by the nonprofit corporation. The corporation would be governed by a local board of directors.
Note: Rodney Berry, editor of the Public Life Advocate, serves on the Bring Back Baseball Committee.