Council OK’s $250,000 loan for new wood bat baseball team
The Fremont City Council approved a $250,000 Local Option Economic Development Loan (LB840) that will help bring a new wood bat league baseball team to Fremont.
The council unanimously approved a resolution at its meeting Tuesday night to give a $250,000 forgivable loan to Expedition League Inc., which is a summer collegiate baseball league that currently has eight teams located throughout the Dakotas, Wyoming and Nebraska.
“What we do is, we are a summer collegiate baseball league, so we are very much like the minor league baseball experience,” said Steve Wagner, president of the Expedition League, at the meeting. “We really entertain the fans.”
The terms of the $250,000 forgivable loan require Expedition League to maintain a team in Fremont for a five year period, according to City of Fremont Grant Coordinator Lottie Mitchell.
According to Wagner, the funds will be used to make various upgrades to Moeller Field. The Fremont-based Expedition League team will play 32 home games over the course of each summer season which lasts from late May through early August.
“Moeller Field is a great playing surface but there’s some work that needs to be done, so that is what we would look to do with these funds,” he said. “We want to make it a field that would help the fan experience and we would bring amenities for the fans.”
Upgrades would include sinking the dugouts, expanding and updating seating, concessions and bathrooms at the facility, said Wagner.
Expedition League would also look for a corporate sponsor that would be granted naming rights to Moeller Field to help fill the gap for planned upgrades to the field that are estimated to cost $400,000.
“So it could be, for example, ABC Company at Moeller Field or something like that,” Wagner said. “We have that in other communities where there is a corporate sponsor but the field name has also been maintained to maintain the history of whoever that field may be named for.”
Currently the Expedition League is made up of eight teams including two in Nebraska, the Western Nebraska Pioneers in the Scottsbluff/Gering area and the Hastings Sodbusters.
Along with newly planned Fremont-based team, the league also plans to add three more teams for a total of 12 that would compete in the 2019 season next summer.
“Hopefully, ultimately we will be a league of 22 to 24 teams, or that is what our strategic vision is,” Wagner said.
According to Wagner, the league is made up of collegiate baseball players from multiple divisions that are “high level, top tier collegiate talent.”
“Of our 250 or so players across the league this year 70 of those players were Division I, and we also have players from NAIA, Division II and JUCO players as well,” he said. “These kids are looking to break into professional baseball and we provide and emulate that experience.”
During Wagner’s presentation to the council, councilmember Linda McClain asked about the economic impact the new team would provide to the community.
“Can you speak to what kind of revenue comes into communities where these fans come to these games?” she asked.
According to Wagner, each team has an operating budget between $4-600,000 and that each team employs three to four full-time employees with an annualized full-time equivalent payroll of between $125-150,000.
He added that each team also employs around a dozen game day staff for each 32 home games, who would be paid near minimum wage. Each team also has 4-5 paid interns.
“We have four primary revenue sources: corporate partnership and sponsorship, second would be tickets, then concessions and also apparel sales,” he said. “We sell a lot of apparel, jerseys, hats, different types of souvenirs.”
Wagner added that the mission of the league, much like the minor league baseball experience, is geared towards providing fun and entertainment to the community.
“We are all about fun, we do a lot of between inning activities, a lot to engage the fans,” he said. “We have really connected with the communities and really been embraced by the cities where we have a team and we want one here in Fremont.”