Interests – It’s a Home Run
Story by Megan Whitehead | Jun 27, 2018
In our 2017 Holiday Issue, we introduced (to those who didn’t already know) Jay Carroll and The Wanted baseball. The Wanted, Jefferson City’s Frontier League professional baseball team, and The Young Wanted, a competitive organization dedicated to educating children about the fundamentals of sports and life, are once again making big waves in the community.
Jefferson City loves their sports. This is evident in the packed events for elementary through high school games, Parks and Rec leagues, and much more. I think we can all agree that we are in dire need of a large venue for meetings, events, entertainment, etc. Enter The Wanted.
Jay Carroll and his team put their heads together and came up with a solution: A Frontier League stadium complete with hotel, restaurant, bars, and anything else the community might want in a large venue. With support from local businesses and the community, plans are now in the works.
Their goal: To develop entertainment opportunities in our community that will provide quality entertainment for families and individuals of all ages.
Why build a stadium in Jefferson City? The answer is twofold: multiple forms of entertainment and economic development.
The stadium will have the potential to host events ranging from Special Olympics to concerts to festivals to (of course) baseball games and camps.
What’s even more exciting is the economic growth potential for our city. “[Building a stadium] has been a real economic tool,” says Rich Sauget, president of the Frontier League and owner of the Gateway Grizzlies Frontier League team in Sauget, Illinois. “And the fact that, when we built [the Grizzlies’] stadium on the interchange off of I-255, we were able to bring sewer, water, electric, and other priorities that we would need not only for this ballpark but many other office-type facilities that you can see here now.”
Sauget goes on to extol the financial benefits of having three to four thousand people packing into his stadium, including food and beverage providers, printers for marketing and promotion, and more.
This may seem like a pipe dream, but plans just like this have been successful in cities like ours across the Midwest. Frontier League commissioner Bill Lee says: “People make it successful. I have four things I like to look at. One is the market — can the market sustain? Second thing is the facility — can the facility accommodate, is it in a good geographic location that people can access? Three is the ownership — is the team financially strong? And four, and probably the most important part of it, is the day-to-day management.”
The big question, then, is whether Jefferson City and The Wanted have these four things. “It’s a nice size market,” says Lee. “In the Frontier League, we have teams in the St. Louis area and Chicago area, places like that that are big cities. But we also have some in some medium sized cities like Marion, Illinois, which is really only 16,000 people, but the market size is bigger. We have Traverse City, Michigan, which is around 20,000 people in the winter months, but becomes around 250,000 with all of the tourists that come in. Evansville, Indiana, is around 100,000 people. Those types of cities work very well for our league. I think it’ll be a great addition [to Jefferson City] because, if you do it right, it’s not just a baseball stadium — this is going to be a facility for the entire community to take advantage of.”
Steve Gomric, general manager of the Grizzlies, adds, “The Wanted stadium would fit inside of our league and be a desired property in our league both from a geographic point of view and from a community point of view. We’re going to cities like Jefferson City because that’s the type of community that fits this level of baseball. Not everyone can host a AAA team. Not everyone can host a major league team. We make great relationships with universities, with little leagues, and with communities as a whole that say you can bring your event here. You can host your state championship here. You can have your professional team and amateur baseball here, and that’s what a stadium brings to a community and that’s what a stadium could bring to a Wanted community.”