The Re/MAX Field Situation
Posted August 16, 2020
Baseball fans in the Edmonton area have had a lot to digest over the last number of months as the City of Edmonton finally decided the future of Re/Max Field. This spring the City of Edmonton awarded a new 10 year lease to the Edmonton Baseball Inc group. The lease will take effect on April 1, 2021 and ends the tenure of the Edmonton Prospects who had been the lease holders/primary tenants since 2012. The baseball field, which is the crown jewel of baseball fields in northern Alberta, will have new operators and potentially new tenants for the 2021 season although exact details are not known. All that is known right now is that the Edmonton Prospects have stated they will be playing out of Spruce Grove as they are building a new facility set to open in 2021.
The situation has been playing out in the regular media as well as on social media over the last few months. On one side is the Edmonton Prospects, owner Patrick Cassidy and Prospects fans. On the other is the City of Edmonton who have been joined lately by the Edmonton Baseball Inc group who won the lengthy bidding process to take over the field in 2021.
Concern from Prospects fans is that the City of Edmonton was operating in bad faith and looking at options to remove the Prospects and potentially tear down Re/Max Field for the development of the site to accommodate condos and therefore collect more tax revenue. The City on the other hand has stated numerous times that the ball park fits into their plans for development of the Rossdale area and there is no immediate plans to tear down the ball park or lock the doors and let it wither away as the old Foothills Stadium in Calgary has.
There has been a lot of speculation and a lot of information that has been moving through social media and traditional media over the last year and a half. Here is a timeline of what has happened so far and I hope I have captured most of news with this list:
Timeline of Events
2016 - Edmonton Prospects sign a four year lease with the City of Edmonton, with a fifth year option for the park.
May 17, 2016 - The Edmonton Prospects welcome the Fort McMurray Oil Giants into the Edmonton Ball Park as forrest fires ravage the Wood Buffalo area. It is the Oil Giants first season in the WMBL. https://fortmcmurraygiants.ca/edmonton-prospects-baseball-club-opens-doors-to-fort-mcmurray-giants/
February 23, 2017 - Edmonton Prospects owner Patrick Cassidy talks to the Edmonton Sun about improvements to the ball park and attracting more community use of the field including the Vimy Academy baseball program and the University of Alberta Baseball Club. https://edmontonsun.com/2017/02/23/prospects-owner-polishing-river-valley-ball-diamond/wcm/ef59a341-81c6-4b03-90f8-d45d8e556142
September 8, 2017 - The Edmonton Collegiate Baseball Club begins it’s fall workouts after they had applied for admittance into the Canadian College Baseball Conference. If successful the ECBC would play in a probationary CCBC season in 2018 with the hope for full admittance into the league for 2019. http://ecbaseballclub.com/news/ecbc-fall-season-begins/
March 2018- Roberto Alomar pens a letter to Edmonton mayor Don Iveson in support of the Edmonton Prospects and keeping the doors open at Re/Max Field. Iveson responds by saying that there is no immediate danger of the field closing or being torn down. Having a former player like Roberto Alomar, who spoke at the Edmonton Prospects Gala in February 2018, gave the story national legs with coverage from Sportsnet, CBC and the Toronto Star amongst others. https://www.sportsnet.ca/baseball/mlb/roberto-alomar-swings-fence-edmonton-ballparks-behalf/
September 12, 2018 - Manager Ray Brown and assistant coach/director of baseball development Orv Franchuk, announce that they are both resigning from their positions after not being able to come to terms on new contracts with the Edmonton Prospects. “What it all boils down to, is we just had some unresolved issues that we were unable to agree on,” Franchuk said. “That’s the bottom line.” The two were instrumental in turning the franchise around on the field and in developing local players. https://edmontonsun.com/sports/baseball/edmonton-prospects-in-search-of-new-coaching-staff-after-resignation-of-ray-brown-and-orv-franchuk
January 31, 2019 - The Edmonton Prospects announced a press conference where they announce a $3,000,000 upgrade plan for Re/Max Field which includes a proposed 25 year lease agreement with the City of Edmonton in exchange for the investment in the upgrades. Some of the upgrades include new lighting, a new scoreboard, new mechanical systems, kid zones and the replacement of the aging artificial turn surface on the infield. https://edmontonsun.com/sports/baseball/edmonton-prospects-to-approach-city-with-3-million-in-proposed-upgrades-to-remax-field
February 2, 2019 - The Alberta Dugout Stories podcast dives into stadium talk, specifically the Foothills Stadium in Calgary and Re/Max Field in Edmonton. What they mean to the cities that they are in and what the future might hold for them. Edmonton Prospects owner Patrick Cassidy talks to the podcast about their commitment to the facility and what their proposed investment in upgrades will look like if they are granted an extended lease. h
March 31, 2019 - The Edmonton Collegiate Baseball Club begins it’s inaugural season at Re/Max Field in the Canadian College Baseball Conference http://ecbaseballclub.com/news/ecbc-set-to-begin-inaugural-season/
April 2019 - Internet excitement grew when a group known as Professional Baseball Alberta, made a presentation to the Edmonton City Council regarding the relocation of a Pioneer League baseball team to Edmonton. The Pioneer League is a short season Class A league similar to that of the Vancouver Canadians currently. The league features teams in Montana, Colorado and Utah. The allure of affiliated baseball has many people, including myself, excited despite being fairly unrealistic. https://globalnews.ca/news/5153163/edmonton-re-max-field-request-for-proposals/
April 10, 2019 - A city council committee votes to carry out a search for proposals to lease Re/Max field from 2020-2030. According to the city the current lease holder had not fulfilled the terms of the lease, therefore they would not be picking up a fifth year option for the Patrick Cassidy/Edmonton Prospects group as the lease holders. “Ward 10 Coun. Michael Walters said he’s hoping for a consortium bid that would see a baseball team as an anchor, along with community and commercial partnerships, like minor baseball and a local brewery.” Edmonton Journal https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/city-calls-for-creative-bids-for-remax-field-prospects-could-be-shown-door-after-2019-season
August 7, 2019 - John Short writes a short piece on the upcoming decision that the City of Edmonton has regarding the lease of Re/Max Field and reports that a second group led by Randy Gregg has entered the proposal fray seeking a 10 year lease. https://www.facebook.com/Edmonton-Sports-376602762487650/
August 12, 2019 - Prospects owner Patrick Cassidy Tweets “Don’t want to be overly dramatic but tonight’s game down at Re/Max could very realistically be last ever for PROSPECTS and WCBL baseball at Re/Max Field.” https://twitter.com/capacity23/status/1159887832405569536
August 12, 2019 - Global News reports that the City of Edmonton and the Edmonton Prospects have engaged in arbitration and have had legal discussion regarding contractual obligations not met by the current lease holders. “Yes, we are engaged in arbitration over some contractual issues related to the current agreement, but that said, we are unable to comment because the matter is in arbitration,” Perhaps this items are small things being wrapped up at the end of a lease and is normal business, perhaps there is more to it, we will probably never get to know the full details. https://globalnews.ca/news/5750069/edmonton-ballpark-remax-field-rossdale/
August 13, 2019 - The Edmonton Journal runs a story with quotes and information regarding the second group of locals who are interesting in operating the field. Like the Prospects, there are plans to increase the usage of the facility year round through both baseball and non-baseball activities. https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/future-of-edmonton-prospects-hangs-in-the-air-other-offers-pitched-for-use-of-re-max-field
August 14, 2019 - The Edmonton Prospects Twitter account Tweets out a graphic highlighting the growth in overall usage of the facility dating back to 2016. The Prospects had 87, 112, 95 and 107 in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 respectively. Bookings were considered Prospects games, Prospect practices and facility rentals. https://twitter.com/EdmProspects/status/1161663830075691014
August 14, 2019 - CTV News reports on the proposed plan by the Edmonton Prospects should they be able to sign a new long term lease with the City of Edmonton for Re/Max Field https://edmonton.ctvnews.ca/i-feel-confident-prospects-prepare-to-pitch-their-vision-of-re-max-field-future-to-city-council-1.4549462?cache=%3FclipId%3D104059
August 15, 2019 - The Edmonton Prospects are expected to make their proposal in person to the City of Edmonton committee.
August 15, 2019 - The Edmonton Prospects Podcast Show Tweets “Am told things went well, and now the wait is on for Randy Gregg to make his proposal. I am told the city extended the deadline because the Gregg group wasn’t ready but who knows” https://twitter.com/prospectspod/status/1162771544507969536 The Edmonton Blackhawks, who Randy Gregg manages, was in Stonewall, MB competing in the Senior AA Western Canadian Championships.
August 22, 2019 - It is believed that the other group will be making their proposal in person to the City of Edmonton committee much like the Prospects did a week ago.
November 12, 2019 - Patrick Cassidy, Gold Sports and Entertainment Group Corp. announces progress on the development of a new ball park in Spruce Grove to be home to a new WCBL team. The hope is to see construction begin sometime in 2020 or 2021. The statement goes on to say that the WCBL is showing the endeavour support for another franchise in the Edmonton area. https://twitter.com/GroveWcbl/status/1194403663642382343/photo/1
November 14, 2019 - In the Edmonton Journal, https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/edmonton-prospects-preparing-to-return-to-re-max-field-next-season-without-agreement-with-city-in-place
March 6, 2020 - the Spruce Grove Reporter/Examiner reports that Gold Sports and Entertainment Group Corp. will be brining a WCBL franchise to Spruce Grove with a target date for their inaugural season being 2022. https://www.sprucegroveexaminer.com/sports/local-sports/new-baseball-franchise-coming-to-spruce-grove
April 30, 2020 - The Western Canadian Baseball League announces it will delay the start of the 2020 season to late June due to the Covid-19 pandemic https://globalnews.ca/news/6889700/edmonton-prospects-coronavirus-season/
May 20, 2020 - CTV News reports that a group of local investors led by Dr. Randy Gregg (Edmonton Baseball Inc) agrees to a new 10-year lease with the City of Edmonton after a year of negotiating https://edmonton.ctvnews.ca/baseball-to-remain-at-re-max-field-after-randy-gregg-led-group-agrees-to-10-year-deal-with-city-1.4947018
May 20, 2020 - John Short Tweets “Pat Cassidy has said he won't play in Gregg-controlled Telus Field. He has declared an interest in Stony-Spruce area and I believe he wants to be there. Two Edm teams plus one in Stony Plain would be too many.” The Tweet implies that Cassidy will not play in a facility controlled by another lease holder while at the same time being fully committed to pursing a new field with the current Prospects for the Parkland County area. https://twitter.com/JohnShort_JXS/status/1263286422741512192
May 21, 2020 - The Western Canadian Baseball League, seemingly surprised at recent discussions in the media about the league playing at Re/Max Field with a new team, issued a statement on the situation. WCBL President Kevin Kvame states that the WCBL has not been in any talks with the Edmonton Baseball Inc group regarding a WCBL being formed to play out of Re/Max Field for 2020 or 2021. It is the midst of a back and forth in the media between the Edmonton Baseball Inc group and the WCBL on what has been said. https://edmontonsportsfans.ca/2020/05/21/will-there-be-baseball-in-edmonton-in-2021/
May 22, 2020 - The Edmonton Prospects announce that they will be moving the franchise to Spruce Grove for the 2022 WCBL season. While the original plan was stated for Prospects owner Patrick Cassidy to expand the WCBL reach with a second franchise in Spruce Grove, the loss of the Re/Max Field lease meant that the Prospects would be moving on. https://globalnews.ca/news/7072723/edmonton-prospects-field-design-spruce-grove/
May 22, 2020 - Prospects owner Pat Cassidy joins Dean Millard and Jordan Blundell on the Prospects Baseball Show podcast to discuss the recent events involving the Re/Max Field lease story. https://share.transistor.fm/s/546ff373
May 27, 2020 - The Western Canadian Baseball League announces that the 2020 season is cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Without fans in the stands for revenue and with the US/Canada border being closed it was a foregone conclusion that the season would be cancelled. https://edmonton.ctvnews.ca/edmonton-prospects-baseball-season-cancelled-1.4958427
You can read the WCBL press release here http://www.prospectsbaseballclub.com/edmonton-prospects-news/edmonton-prospects-news
May 28, 2020 - Western Canadian Baseball League president Kevin Kvame updates the Alberta Dugout Stories listeners with the league’s standing on the Re/Max Field situation. In February 2020 the City of Edmonton expressed interest to have the WCBL in Edmonton. The WCBL did not have any conversations with the City of Edmonton after February 2020 until the announcement on May 20, 2020 that there would be new lease holders starting in 2021. Kvame notes that there has been no application for a new team and would hesitate to accept one until the WCBL’s 100km exclusive rights for the Edmonton area held by the Prospects is dealt with. h
June 4, 2020 - The Alberta Dugout Stories podcast tries to get to the bottom of what is happening with the Re/Max Field and WCBL situation. In this episode of the podcast listeners get to hear from Edmonton Prospects owner Pat Cassidy as well as the Edmonton Baseball inc’s Randy Gregg. Both talk about their experiences with the Re/Max Field lease negotiating as well as what the immediate and long term future holds for both of them. h
June 8, 2020 - Alberta Dugout Stories fills in some information gaps about the Re/Max Field story, and perhaps opens others as there are a lot of questions left to be answered from the Edmonton Prospects, the Baseball Edmonton Inc group and the WCBL https://albertadugoutstories.com/2020/06/08/fielders-choice/
June 16, 2020 - Plans for the often talked about new ballpark facility in Spruce Grove are released by the Edmonton Prospects and team owner Patrick Cassidy who is also the President of Gold Sports and Entertainment. 37 acres near Pioneer Road and Highway 16A in Spruce Grove is the planned site for the field which is expected to be open in 2022. https://globalnews.ca/news/7072723/edmonton-prospects-field-design-spruce-grove/
July 9, 2020 - Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun reports that there is a big announcement on the horizon for the Edmonton Baseball Inc group. It is also revealed that Booster Juice co-founder, president and CEO Dale Wishewan is part of the Edmonton Baseball Inc group. While it is unclear what the announcement is exactly Wishewan says “We have some great things coming. There’s a pretty big announcement we want to make in the next few weeks. In a few weeks we’ll have a good announcement to make — one that’s more than just good. It’ll be the best calibre of baseball that’s come to Edmonton in years.” https://edmontonjournal.com/sports/baseball/jones-booster-juice-founder-gives-local-baseball-a-boost/wcm/2b60ebdd-2670-44f4-b454-87c80aa8b4e1?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1594306229
History of Re/MAX Field
Located in the Edmonton River Valley and along the North Saskatchewan River, Re/Max Field has always been a gorgeous ballpark to watch a game in. The Rossdale Water Treatment Plant located beyond the left field wall is a brick building which along with the river valley, apartment buildings and the freshly completed Walterdale Bridge, makes for a spectacular skyline. Out past the right field wall you can see the Alberta Legislature looming atop the River Valley as well as the High Level Bridge in the distance. It really is an impressive view.
The field now known as Re/Max Field was originally called Renfrew Park dating back to its construction in 1935. The park was then renamed as John Ducey Park and in 1981 featured the newly formed Edmonton Trappers, owned by Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington, which would compete in the Pacific Coast League as the AAA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. In 1995 John Ducey Park would get a face lift including an artificial turf infield, due to lower maintenance costs in our northern climate as well as to extend the time of use earlier and later in the seasons. The field would also be re-named Telus Field which would last until 2016.
Pocklington purchased the Ogden A’s and moved the team to Edmonton for the 1981 season where they would become the Edmonton Trappers. Between 1981 and 2004, the Edmonton Trappers would call John Ducey Park and Telus Field home while operating as a AAA affiliate for the White Sox (81-82), California Angels (83-92), Florida Marlins (93-94), Oakland Athletics (95-98), Anaheim Angels (99-200), Minnesota Twins (01-02) and final the Montreal Expos (03-04).
In 2005 Edmonton would be without affiliated baseball after the Trappers were sold to a group led by Nolan Ryan for $10,400,000 and who would move the team to Round Rock, TX to become the Round Rock Express. The Trappers were sold by the Edmonton Eskimos after their fate was essentially sealed due to costs to operate the team by a MLB franchise as a result of the loss of the Calgary Cannons in 2002 and the Vancouver Canadians in 1999. The last couple of seasons of Trappers baseball was a logistics nightmare while being affiliated with the Montreal Expos. The Expos had started to play a portion of their home games in San Juan, Puerto Rico meaning a player who would get called up, would have to travel from Edmonton to Puerto Rico to join the club.
For the 2005 season Telus Field would be home to a new Western Major Baseball League team, the Edmonton Big River Prospects, as well as the Edmonton Cracker-Cats of the independent Northern League. The Prospects would move on to play at Legion Memorial Ballpark in St Albert as the St Albert Prospects for the 2006 and 2007 seasons before taking a leave of absence in 2008, then returning in 2009 as the Edmonton Prospects but playing out of John Fry Park in Edmonton until the end of the 2011 season. In 2012, the Edmonton Prospects would return to Telus Field where they remain today. The Cracker-Cats would play in Telus Field from 2005-2007 in the Northern League, then move to the Golden League in 2008 before re-branding to the Edmonton Capitals for the 2009 season. The would remain the Edmonton Capitals playing in the Golden League for 2009 and 2010, but as the league struggled to operate so did the teams. The Capitals would play in the North American Baseball League in 2011, winning the league championship, before stopping operations before the 2012 season.
In 2016 Telus Field was renamed the Edmonton Ballpark after the naming rights expired before the Edmonton Prospects secured a new name sponsor, giving us Re/Max Field for the 2017 season.
The Edmonton Collegiate Baseball Club (ECBC), which played their first season in the Canadian Collegiate Baseball Conference in 2019, have also called Re/Max Field home since the start of the 2018 season.
RE/MAX Field Under The Edmonton Baseball Inc Group
While there are more details expected in the next few weeks and months leading up to the April 1, 2021 lease take-over date by the Edmonton Baseball Inc group, there are some things that we know about the plans/hopes of the group. According to Dr. Gregg, who has spoken to Inside Sports with Reid Wilkins and Alberta Dugout Stories amongst others, there are four key areas that the Edmonton Baseball Inc group are planning to focus on with the facility over the next 10 years.
- Keeping WCBL baseball at Re/Max Field with the Edmonton Prospects as tenants. The Edmonton Baseball Inc group has stated a few times that they hope the Edmonton Prospects are willing to stay in the facility full time. The plan would include a $500,000 investment in upgrades to the facility with Dr Gregg stating an offer was made to the Prospects that would see the team enter into a revenue sharing deal but have no overhead costs for the team.
- To maximize the use of the facility the Edmonton Baseball Inc group would like to see a second WCBL franchise in the Edmonton area during the short summer collegiate baseball league. The hope would be to see an amateur baseball rivalry that would be along the lines of the Edmonton Huskies and Edmonton Wildcats of the Canadian Junior Football League.
- Creating a minor baseball hub for the Edmonton area by utilizing the facility in a twelve month a year program and have players stay/play locally.
- Expanding the use of the facility into non-baseball use within the Edmonton arts, music and entertainment community.
What To Make Of It All
It appeared that the City of Edmonton was looking for change for reasons that the public will probably never fully get to know. They had an unwillingness to extend a lease for the Cassidy led Prospects group for some reason or reasons. Despite the doom and gloom talk of the City of Edmonton wanting to tear down the building and develop the land for condos, the City had a desire to secure a new ten year lease for the facility and expand it’s use, so tearing it don’t does not seem to be in the immediate future. But they did want to go into a proposal process to accommodate more than one group interested in taking over the lease of the facility. Was that just due diligence from the city or was it an opportunity for them to make a switch and find new operators?
There are a number of Edmonton Prospect supporters that were quick to jump on the idea that people wanted to get rid of the WCBL team in favour of affiliated baseball like the AAA Trappers back in Edmonton and would quickly cast aside the Prospects to do so. As fantastic as it would be to see professional baseball such as the Trappers back, it is probably never happening. The logistics of a AAA, AA or even A team is too much to overcome given where Edmonton is located to the rest of the baseball world. Especially with Major League Baseball contracting the number of teams across Minor League Baseball for 2020. The best opportunity for affiliated baseball might be a short season rookie A team, but even that is extremely unlikely given the location of where a league like the Pioneer League is situated in Montana, Utah and Colorado. Independent pro baseball is wildly unpredictable and costly for a team in a place like Edmonton, just look at the history of the Edmonton Cracker-Cats and Edmonton Capitals as an example of how unstable that form of baseball can be.
Once it was revealed that the mysterious other group was led by a former Oiler and Stanley Cup Champion, Dr Randy Gregg, there was also what felt like unfair criticism about the City of Edmonton catching Oilers fever. It is unfair because many probably don’t know the lengthy history that Dr. Gregg has with amateur baseball in Edmonton dating back to his playing days with the Edmonton Tigers in the 1970s as well as the time he has spent coaching minor baseball in Edmonton.
If the baseball landscape goes back to normal and there is a WCBL season in 2021, the Prospects have made it clear that they will not be tenants at Re/Max Field for business reasons, and probably non-business reasons as well. Instead it is likely the the team would take a leave of absence from the WCBL after what appears to have been an unsuccessful attempt to secure another field in the Edmonton area. That means the next time that Prospects fans could see their team on the field won’t be until 2022, when the Spruce Grove baseball complex is set to be ready for the WCBL season. There are going to be comparisons between the failed Sports City proposal in St Albert and the ballpark development in Spruce Grove as Prospects owner Patrick Cassidy’s name was and is tied closely to both. The Sports City proposal was an ambitious one to say the least. The planned 10-15 year buildout had a price tag of $1.5 billion to $2 billion. As reported by St Albert Today in 2010: The heart of the plan would be a multi-use sports complex that would include a 2,500-seat baseball stadium, an indoor fieldhouse large enough to hold a Canadian-sized football field and five ice hockey sheets. The new development would also include several outdoor ball diamonds and a golf-training centre with a driving range and practice holes. “The idea is to create an inclusive community where people can live within walking distance of shopping and recreational amenities”, said Pat Cassidy, a principal with SAS. https://www.stalberttoday.ca/local-news/sports-city-here-we-come-1271424
There are plenty of rumours circulating in the baseball community about the current state of the Edmonton Prospects and the WCBL in Edmonton as well as what the future holds for baseball in the city. Perhaps there is some truth to them, perhaps they are all just rumours. In the end there was another group who felt that they can better utilize the facility and provide the City of Edmonton and the local baseball community with what it wants. As long as the City of Edmonton engaged in due process to determine what is the best for the facility and the game of baseball in Edmonton, then that is all we can ask for.