Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone College enters talks with minor league baseball for field

By Wes Bowers.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007—Reprinted from Fremont Bulletin.

Ohlone College's current baseball field.

A new baseball field may be on the horizon for Ohlone Community College, as well as a minor league baseball team for the Bay Area.

At its Nov. 14 meeting, Ohlone College's Board of Trustees voted 6-1 to sign a letter of intent to negotiate a lease contract with the semi-professional Golden Baseball League for a new stadium on the Newark campus.

Trustee John Weed dissented, stating he wanted to see more information on the project than just a two-page letter presented by Diamond Project LLC, which represents the baseball league.

"We only had preliminary information presented to us," Weed said. "This may very well be an appropriate location for the field, but I would have liked more information."

Useful information, Weed asserted, could have been in the form of renderings, or a company background.

The intent to enter into an agreement with the league follows several discussions on how to repair the college's existing, aging field.

During the board's Oct. 10 meeting, college officials discussed making some repairs to the field for $100,000.

Ohlone's field has been in disrepair for some time. A surveyor told officials the field remains wet longer than it should after rains and regular watering.

Additionally, ground squirrel holes can be found all along the warning track. The outfield also slopes into a wall so much so that water builds up.

Recent discussions have also centered on where to place a new field once new developments along Mission Boulevard on the college's frontage property are complete.

The league, whose main offices are located in Dublin even though there is no team in the Bay Area, would build the stadium up to its standards for joint use of the facility, according to the letter.

League standards include 1,500 seats, lights, improved concessions, improved restrooms, and other amenities that would be agreed upon by both the school and the league, the letter states.

The school, according to the letter, would accept this development agreement in lieu of rent for at least 30 years.

Additionally, all revenue generated from the facility would go to the league.

The letter also states the league shall be the master leaseholder for the facility and play between 45 and 60 games each summer.

The league would also have the right to host non-baseball events at the facility as long as they do not interfere with Ohlone's baseball program.

Ohlone shall provide the league with written notice of all relevant policies, restrictions or limitations regarding third-party use of the proposed stadium, including, but not limited to, permanent and/or temporary on-site commercial signage, parking access, shower and changing facilities, equipment storage, and the league's rights as a concessionaire, including its ability to sell beer on site.

The agreement is non-binding until a formal lease is prepared and executed by both the league and the college.

Negotiations are expected to take about 180 days, the letter states.

Ohlone President Douglas Treadway said he would begin attending meetings with Golden Baseball League officials to examine the feasibility of building a stadium in Newark.

The league quoted a $4 million to $6 million cost to build the new facility, according to Treadway.

If negotiations are successful and a stadium gets built in Newark, Treadway said the league would like to have the facility completed in time for its 2009 summer schedule. The new stadium would be less than a mile from the Oakland Athletics' proposed Cisco Field.

Treadway said while the new minor league team would most likely not be affiliated with the A's, the team was willing to work with Ohlone on the project.

"I think it's appealing to people to have a partner in financing something like this," Treadway said. "We haven't identified a source of funding to repair the existing field or build a new one, except through this method."

One of Weed's concerns with the intention to negotiate dealt with land uses on the Newark campus. He said state law limits the amount of money an outside entity can spend on land already built with bond money, to $4 million.

Because the proposed stadium may cost more than $4 million, Weed was concerned that other outside companies would lose out on co-operational opportunities.

"We have a health, science and technology-centered campus," he said. "If another company wanted to invest in these programs, the stadium may have locked (potential deals) up."

Weed said he favored joint operational use of the property, and suggested a joint venture between the college and City of Newark for an arts center on the campus as another potential use.

Weed said he hopes his concerns will be addressed at future meetings or work sessions.

"It's not to say this isn't a good deal," he said. "In the end, this may well be an excellent use for the property."

The Golden Baseball League is a minor professional independent baseball league with teams located throughout western North America.

Now in its fifth year, the league aims to establish three eight-team divisions in the Pacific Northwest/Canada, the Pacific Coast, and the Southwest over the next five years, according to the league's Web site.

Teams include Chico, Long Beach, Orange County and San Diego in California; a team in Yuma, Ariz.; a team in Reno, Nev.; and a team in St. George, Utah. The league recently expanded to Calgary and Edmonton, in Alberta, Canada.

Some of the teams in the league play on college fields. The Chico team plays on the Chico State University field, and the Reno club plays on the University of Nevada-Reno field. The St. George team shares a playing field with Dixie State College, another community college.

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