Minor league baseball team planning move to Vancouver with creation of Clark College facility

Short Season LLC, owners of the Yakima Bears, a short season Single-A minor league baseball team affiliated with the Arizona Diamondbacks, today announced their intention to relocate the team to Vancouver by the start of the 2012 season.

To make that move a reality, the group has proposed the creation of a 6,000-capacity multi-use facility on the Clark College campus that meets the standards of Minor League Baseball. The initial site location for the facility is on vacant Clark College property between I-5 and Fort Vancouver Way, north of the Marshall Center.

The Bears’ General Manager and part owner K.L. Wombacher said the team would generate an expected $4 million dollars in economic revenue, including 20 full-time and roughly 200 seasonal part-time jobs.

“That [generated revenue] includes hotel room bookings, restaurant use and a real boost to the revitalizing of downtown Vancouver,” said Wombacher.

Why Vancouver?

Unable to make progress on an adequate host facility in Yakima (the Bears’ home since 1990), Short Season received permission from its league and Minor League Baseball to explore relocation possibilities last January.

Wombacher said the departure of the Portland Beavers in 2010 made the Portland/Vancouver market an ideal target. In addition, he said Short Season will be able to build more of a community brand on the Washington side of the river.

“Their [the Beavers] departure really opened up this region for baseball,” he said. “And what has us really excited about this [Clark County] community is how we’ve been welcomed.”

Mike Thiessen of The Madison Group, a business that connects sports teams, communities and facilities nationwide, which is advising Short Season, echoed that statement.

“Vancouver is a baseball town,” said Thiessen. “The buzz we’re hearing around here has been unbelievable.”

Building a facility

Based on preliminary estimates, Short Season said the facility would require a $23 million investment, with financing coming from the team through investments and guarantees, corporate partners through naming rights and luxury boxes and public financing such as a “modest entertainment admissions fee.”

The group will begin formal negotiations with the college and local government organizations to develop financing and operating agreements with the hope of finalizing plans by mid June.

Thiessen said the goal is to start construction this September and finish by June 2012. The project is expected to involve some 450-500 construction jobs.

As envisioned, Short Season said it would sign a long-term lease with Clark College, committing the team to Vancouver. In exchange, the team would make annual lease payments, as well as cover all maintenance and operations costs.

“It’s not every day someone approaches us about making a multi-million investment that will enhance student experiences, job growth, recreation, entertainment and economic development,” said Bob Knight, president of Clark College, in a press release. “Although there is a lot of work ahead, this is a promising project for Clark College, Clark County and the entire metro area. We look forward to working with our partners and constituents to make this happen.”

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