Coastal Plain League Franchise to Replace Departing Savannah Sand Gnats

Coastal Plain LogoA summer collegiate Coastal Plain League franchise will take up residence at Grayson Stadium when the Savannah Sand Gnats (Single-A, South Atlantic League) depart for a new ballpark in Columbia (SC) after the 2015 season.  The team will be owned by Jesse Cole and Fans First Entertainment, who will continue to own the Gastonia Grizzlies and manage the Martinsville Mustangs in the CPL.  Read more here.  Watch news reports here and here.


Filed under League & Franchise, Market & Location

12 responses to “Coastal Plain League Franchise to Replace Departing Savannah Sand Gnats

  1. Rf9

    You is club mgmt n maybe a new pro team goes into sav

    • eastfirst107

      Not until they get a new ballpark.

      • ballparkbiz

        And that’s the rub. Spend $20+ million for a new ballpark, get a MiLB affiliate. Spend $0 for a new ballpark, get a CPL club. City leaders and citizens have to decide what they want. Kinston has been holding out and been without baseball for five years. Maybe the wait pays off with an affiliated relocation in 2016, but with a population of 21,000 and a 60+ year-old ballpark (that I love, by the way), I believe the relocation would be short lived. With a population of 143,000 (bigger than Charleston), you would think Savannah would be a far better candidate for a relocation, but maybe city leaders are tired of owner and MiLB demands (whether for a new ballpark or upgrades) and decided to simply bring in someone with credibility to take over Grayson who will work with what they have.


      • eastfirst107

        It’s gotten to the point where MiLB has set the bar so high for new ballparks that they’re pricing themselves out of a lot of markets. Rather than dumping tens of millions into a new park, more and more cities are either:
        – Going with Plan B, like Savannah or Ottawa (where MiLB had the stones to ask for $40 million in renovations to their existing ballpark, and then acted surprised when the city went with the Can-Am League);
        – Doing nothing, but still keeping their team because there’s nowhere to move it (Hagerstown, Bakersfield); or
        – Doing nothing, but still keeping their team because there’s nowhere to move it and the club’s doing perfectly fine in the old ballpark anyway (Richmond).

        Is there a difference between the Coastal Plain and the Sally League? Yeah. But $20+ million dollars’ worth? Apparently not, in the city of Savannah’s eyes.

      • Been Around

        For a city, at the end of the day does it really matter to the people of a town if a team is affiliated or collegiate? There’s a difference in the number of games played (except at the rookie ball level) but high-level collegiate teams are run and marketed these days exactly like affiliated minor league ball.

        People come out to have fun, drink beer and an extremely small percentage come out to see a future Florida Marlin or Texas Ranger. That’s usually for the old guy who brings out his binder of baseball cards and demands 25 autographs from a draft pick every single day

        A city can host a team that can entertain it’s citizens, bring in a little money in taxes and rent, and be just fine without building a new park. The percentage of a city’s budget gained in that tax and rent is extremely small, and the prestige of hosting an affiliated minor league team is nice but there’s no real price tag on that to warrant a new park.

        I don’t know the differential financial benefit for a city between the two but I’d be willing to guess losing a few thousand a year in rent or tax paid sure beats getting a demand from MiLB to build a $20-30 mil ballpark.

        No idea what a city brings in between the two so my guess may be WAY off but, for instance:
        1. A full-season A ball team (70 home games a year) brings in an estimated $100,000 to a city in sales and business taxes and stadium rent in a year.
        2. A collegiate team plays (40 home games including non-league) brings in an estimated $60,000 to a city in sales and business taxes and stadium rent in a year.

        If I’m a mayor/city council of a town where MiLB is demanding a new stadium, I’m perfectly fine with number two.

      • Been Around

        I should have qualified that by saying I believe it doesn’t matter between MiLB/collegiate at that level, the low A-Rookie level. Upper levels are bigger business and the affiliation is a different animal.

      • eastfirst107

        Actually, from experience working for a summer college club in a town that had lost its pro team…it does matter.

        CPL teams play only 28 home games (plus maybe one exhibition game) – so the team is in town, paying rent and staying on people’s minds just 40% of what a full-season club would be. (FWIW, even the short-season pro leagues have 34-38 openings).

        But more than that, it’s really more of a perception/cachet thing than a financial issue.

        Whether you’re a city official or a regular fan, being able to say your town has a “real” minor-league baseball team, affiliated with a big-league team, with Real Actual Future Major League Stars!, sounds nice and gets people and sponsors excited. “Summer college baseball”- most people don’t know what that is. “Minor league baseball?” Much easier sell, believe me.

        Can most people tell the difference between a Low-A shortstop and a summer college shortstop? Probably not, most of the time. Can you create a virtually identical ballpark atmosphere, whether it’s pro or summer college ball? Yeah. But it doesn’t matter, because in general, casual fans and city officials have been conditioned to think that pro ball is “better.”

        You’re right, at some point, it’s not worth hanging on to your full-season affiliated club if it’s going to cost you x amount to do it – that’s sort of the point of this discussion. (And yes, we know that Madison draws better than when they had pro ball, and I’m sure you can come up with a few other exceptions here and there of cities that have transitioned fairly seamlessly from pro to summer college.)

        But just tossing out a blanket statement that “it doesn’t matter whether a city has summer college or Low-A ball, it’s pretty much the same thing”? Sorry, strongly disagree.

  2. How so? You think cities would rather have a collegiate league team that has 30 home dates rather than a full season MiLB team that has 70 home dates?

    • Rf9

      Maybe since the weather is better and you don’t have to pay the players

      • eastfirst107

        Who’s “you”? Cities aren’t the ones paying the players, what do they care? And even the MiLB club isn’t paying salaries – the big league club is.

  3. Rf9

    Moving some cal league teams to the Carolina league may have just hit a bump in the road with the coastal plains league

    • Been Around

      No Cal League team is going to move their business across the country without a shiny new stadium. If they’re moving from one old stadium in CA to an old stadium in NC or GA, why move?

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