PARKERSBURG - Is professional baseball returning to the Mid-Ohio Valley? It's a definite maybe.
Local officials have been in discussions for several months with officials - including members of the independent, professional Frontier Baseball League - to bring pro baseball back to Parkersburg.
Keith Burdette, president of the Wood County Economic Development Authority, said discussion were "very, very preliminary."
"Parkersburg is a great sports town," he said. "People in minor league baseball know that and are willing to talk about the possibility."
"We are so far down the road if we had a deal in place it would be 2010 - with a team ownership plan in place - before we could play," Burdette added.
Burdette also stressed any return of a pro baseball team would not be a repeat of the Mid-Ohio Valley Redcoats.
"Absolutely not a repeat of the Redcoats," Burdette said. "Absolutely not."
The Redcoats were an original Frontier League team that played in Parkersburg from 1993 until 1998. The team played its home games at Bennett Stump Field in City Park. After finishing last in its final three seasons the team moved to Dubois County, Ind..
In 2005, after moving to several cities, the Redcoats landed in Marietta. The team suspended operations before the start of 2006.
Burdette said baseball and the league have matured in the last 10-to-15 years - evolving into million-dollar franchise fees and up-to-date baseball facilities capable of being more than just a baseball venue. The 12 Frontier League teams play in front of crowds of 2,000-to-4,000 fans.
Burdette acknowledges a professional baseball team's return to Parkersburg would require a home run swing of major league proportions. He said the franchise fee for a Frontier League team is more than a million dollars. And no stadium in the area would qualify to house a professional baseball team.
"You're probably talking about a ballfield in the 2,000-3,000-seat range."
But Burdette stressed it would have to be more than just a baseball field for a pro team. It would be a place capable of hosting 200 days worth of events, including concerts and other entertainment opportunities.
"At this stage, we are looking at it: is it practical and what the cost would be associated with it," Burdette said. "Do we have the capacity to put this together? Could we attract an owner who would do it right and do we have the support to make it work? We have a lot of questions to answer, and we are way, way down the road, but we are talking to people who know how to do this."
Frontier League Commissioner Bill Lee responded to a July 9 e-mail sent by the News and Sentinel seeking comment. Lee stated he could not confirm talks. He has not responded to subsequent e-mails or phone calls seeking comment.
A message left with the Vandalia Heritage Foundation seeking comment from Director Jennifer Kinty also was not returned.
Burdette said there is enough interest to at least explore the possibility of returning baseball to the area. The economic development authority is interested in the idea because a pro baseball team would enhance the quality of life for the area residents, thereby making it more attractive to potential businesses.
"If it will create jobs and improve the quality of life we are swinging at it," Burdette said. "It is a development issue."