PARKERSBURG- Although the next phase of a feasibility study looking at bringing a baseball team to the area focuses on three locations in the city, "Parkersburg" likely won't be part of the club's name.
"This team will probably have the name 'Ohio River' or 'Ohio Valley' in it," Tom Rooney, president of the Rooney Sports and Entertainment Group, said at a luncheon this week discussing the project's slot
Sam Winans, co-chairman of the Wood County Development Authority's Parkersburg Baseball Study Committee, said the idea has always been for a team, if one is started in the area, "to appeal to everyone in the Mid-Ohio Valley." A broader geographic title is one way to encourage that.
"It needs to be inclusive for everyone to have ... ownership in the team," Winans said.
The Frontier League team that played in Parkersburg from 1993 to 1998 was known as the Ohio Valley Redcoats.
The committee is about to enter the second phase of a feasibility study on constructing a ballpark for a minor league team, likely with the independent Frontier League. The upcoming study will consider financing options and potential locations, with Fort Boreman Hill, the Parkersburg Business Park off West Virginia 14 and the Sixth Street area of downtown Parkersburg as options.
It's still not guaranteed that, if the project does move forward, the stadium will be located in Parkersburg, Winans said. Ohio locations had been considered in the early stages, but the funding for the study is coming from the West Virginia side now, which is why the focus is on this side of the river, he said.
Wherever the ballpark complex is located, officials from around the region see it as a potential asset.
"Honestly, what benefits Parkersburg can also benefit this side of the river as well," said Jeri Knowlton, executive director of the Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "I would really like to see it happen. ... Wherever it goes, it's a win-win."
Vienna Mayor Randy Rapp expects his city would reap economic rewards from a ballpark in Parkersburg.
"The people that would come to watch them play, they would come to eat in Vienna or shop," he said.
Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz sees similar potential for that city as well and is in favor of a name reflecting the region as a whole.
"In so many ways, we're more of a neighbor to Parkersburg than we are even to Marietta," he said.
Tim Murray, athletic director and boys basketball coach at Wirt County High School, said having a minor league baseball team nearby would benefit young players in the area, allowing them to see their sport played at a higher level. He also likes the idea of a regional name for the team.
"As someone who lives near Parkersburg but not in Parkersburg, I appreciate them including our community," Murray said.
Many Wirt County residents already travel to Parkersburg for work and shopping and would likely be drawn to baseball games at the park as well, Murray said.
Pleasants Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Jody Murphy said he thinks the team would also draw spectators from Pleasants County, although he hasn't heard a lot of discussion about it. The presence of a nearby baseball team is something the chamber would tout, whether it included "Parkersburg" in the name or not.
"I think it would be something we would include in marketing," Murphy said.
Marietta Mayor Joe Matthews said he wants developments like a baseball park as close to home as possible.
"I want the thing in Marietta first," he said. "If I can't have it here, I want it in Washington County. If I can't have it there, I want it in the surrounding area."
Matthews agreed everyone in the project needs interest and support from around the area in order to be successful. However, he expressed disappointment that Marietta officials weren't invited to this week's luncheon and haven't been kept abreast of activities.
Winans said it was an oversight that an invitation wasn't extended to Matthews or a city representative.
"We certainly want to keep our friends in Marietta and Belpre in the loop," he said.