City invites bids for baseball — and beer — at RE/MAX Field

The RE/MAX field in Rossdale may be bigger than baseball in the coming years if the dreams of certain city councillors come true.

New 10-year lease would replace Edmonton Prospects' current deal expiring this year

The Edmonton Prospects baseball team is the current operator at RE/MAX Field. (John Robertson/CBC)

The RE/MAX Field in Rossdale may be bigger than baseball in the coming years if the dreams of certain city councillors come true.

The city is inviting groups to submit proposals to run the facility in a 10-year lease agreement as the current operator —the Edmonton Prospects Baseball Club — is set to have its lease expire at the end of the 2019 baseball season.

At a meeting Wednesday, it was clear councillors want the next operator to be creative.

During council's community and public services committee meeting, Coun. Michael Walters noted that although the site is currently a baseball park, the location could support a slew of amenities, including a craft brewery.

We've been a little tepid about this because we're scared to be romantic- Coun. Michael Walters

The location in the river valley and the natural beauty of the park would help draw more of a crowd, Walters said.

"Because there's enough love for baseball in this city and if we could think bigger about the other things that we could create there, this could be a real winner."

Walters suggested a more developed ballpark area would attract more people.

"We've been a little tepid about this because we're scared to be romantic," he said. "I actually think the romance is the pathway to sustainability because that will lead to the money.

"People spend money on all kinds of romantic things all the time."

Coun. Michael Walters suggested a more developed RE/MAX Field area would attract more people. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

Coun. Scott McKeen agrees the site could be turned into a bustling place with lots going on — baseball, other sports, music, culture and arts.

"I just think we want to be really creative here in the options that come forward."

He said the facility may be anchored in baseball, but other operators could run a restaurant and other amenities.

"I hope we're going to keep the community engaged," McKeen added.

Prospects owner Patrick Cassidy told the committee the team's fan base increases 15 to 20 per cent a year.

"We have big goals and long-term vision for baseball in Edmonton," Cassidy told the committee. "It was our hope that the city would simply negotiate a longer-term lease versus putting the facility out to tender."

The Prospects are hosting the Western Canadian Baseball League's all star game on July 7, he noted.

Cassidy said the organization offers more than baseball games, running 50 to 60 events a year.

"I kind of take a little bit of exception with council's view that we haven't activated the facility in other areas," he said.

The Prospects have partnered with non-profit groups like the Stollery, Homeward Trust, Sports Central and Kinsmen Group with 20 to 30 corporate groups a year renting the ballpark for family barbecues.

"We're creative, we're business people," Cassidy said.

The club has facilitated a couple of weddings on the field and held the world's longest baseball game.

The club plans to submit a bid for a 10-year lease.

Edmonton Trappers played in the Triple-A baseball league until 2004. (CBC archives)

But the Prospects will likely have competition from some bigger players.

Don Stewart, representing Professional Baseball Alberta, pitched the idea of bringing teams affiliated with Major League Baseball to RE/MAX Field.

"Our prime and only focus is to bring affiliated professional baseball back to Edmonton," Stewart said.

He said he's working on creating a list of potential groups who could "optimize usage of the facility in a much more substantial fashion."

He said he's consulting the Northwest League of Professional Baseball, the Pioneer League from Iowa and one from Utah looking at moving their franchise.

Walters welcomed the idea.

"If there's a way to get affiliated baseball back to Edmonton, I'm all ears."

The Edmonton Trappers, part of the Pacific Coast League, were the last minor league baseball team in Edmonton. They finished the 2004 season before moving to Texas.

Walters said developing the RE/MAX Field and area will hopefully complement developing the Rossdale community.

"That whole area will become something special for the city."

The city is accepting request for proposals on the field's lease. There is no current deadline but the city aims to have an operator by 2020.