Rooney touts baseball team project at Rotary

PARKERSBURG – A project to see if bringing minor league baseball to the Parkersburg area is continuing as officials try to determine the feasibility of such a proposal.

Tom Rooney, president of Rooney Sports and Entertainment Group, spoke Monday to the Parkersburg Rotary Club about the ongoing efforts to determine the possibility of bringing baseball to the Mid-Ohio Valley.

Rooney said there is a lot of interest in bringing baseball to the area from a couple of different sources. The Frontier League is currently studying the Bridgeport/Morgantown area and the Parkersburg area as possible expansion locations. Another possibility is the Prospect League, which is a college baseball-affiliated program where college athletes play for free to maintain their eligibility during the summer off-season.

Bringing a baseball team to the Mid-Ohio Valley could be a long process, but it can be a positive one, Rooney said. There are a lot of factors that can impact or affect the process of developing a baseball team. There are also a number of different ways to fund the process, from grants, loans and local funding to programs like tax increment financing, or TIF. The West Virginia Legislature will be considering action on a TIF for Morgantown, which might affect the baseball expansion project in that area, he said.

Rooney said the Washington Wild Things, a Frontier League team in Washington, Pa., has expressed interest in expanding in both areas.

“I think it’s very possible that there will a ballpark down here with a Frontier League team. That might take a couple of years, but that’s not unusual at all,” he said.

One of the main requirements in moving forward is a feasibility study, which has so far been partially funded by the city of Parkersburg. Local development officials are continuing to work to raise the rest of the money for that study, Rooney said.

There are four things required for a municipality to get a team: a ballpark, an owner, a network or league to play in and a franchise or team, Rooney said.

“In the case of Parkersburg, we’ve got a league that’s very interested in coming. We have a potential owner in the Wild Things. We don’t have a ballpark and we don’t have a team, but the ballpark and team are intrinsically linked,” he said.

If a decision is made to build a ballpark in the Parkersburg area, officials can also look at making it a more multipurpose facility. Rooney said the Washington, Pa., ballpark also hosts concerts, circuses and other events throughout the year, expanding its uses to the community.