Is MiLB About to Return to Edmonton?

Reports have surfaced over the past week that minor league baseball may add a second minor league team in Canada, as a group calling itself Professional Baseball Alberta made a presentation to Edmonton’s city council community services committee about bringing an existing franchise to the Alberta capital.

Don Stewart, representing the group, identified the Orem (UT) Owlz, the Pioneer League affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels, as a possible relocation target.  The Pioneer is a short season league, playing a 72-game schedule from late June until Labour Day.

Edmonton had a team in the AAA Pacific Coast League for over 20 years, until an ownership group headed by Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan and his son Reid bought the franchise, and moved it to Round Rock, TX.  Calgary also had a PCL team for much of that span, until it was shifted to Albuquerque, NM.

Currently, the Edmonton Prospects of the collegiate Western Baseball League call RE/MAXField, the one-time home of the Trappers, as their home field, but their lease expires at the end of this season.  The downtown park seats about 9000; the Prospects drew an average of just under 2000 last season.

According to baseballdigest.com, Owlz owner Jeff Katosky has made no secret he’s looking to move the team.    Katosky had pitched investing in hotels around a proposed new ballpark to civic officials in Pueblo County, CO, but the deal ultimately fell through when officials insisted that the lands for the hotel go through a bidding process, rather than be sold outright to Katosky.  Officials also expressed concern that County voters might not be keen to approve financing for a new ballpark.

Travel would be the biggest obstacle to a franchise move to Edmonton.

milb_2013_pioneer-league_n - Edited
billsportsmaps.com

The closest Pioneer League franchise would be in Great Falls, MT, about an 8 hour bus ride away.  There are several other teams in relative proximity to Great Falls, however.  A move of Orem would isolate the league’s Grand Junction, CO franchise, though.  And a natural rivalry could be developed with the wildly successful Vancouver franchise, but they play in the Northwest League.

Edmonton city councillors are said to be quite intrigued by the possibility of a return to affiliated ball.  Approval of Pioneer League governors would be a lengthy process, so it’s doubtful the relocated Owlz franchise could begin play in Edmonton by next season.

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