Friday, May 29, 2015

Developing ClusterShuck

Developing ClusterShuck


Shucks, Where Do We Play?

Ah, baseball.
Don't ya just love it?

Here we have a developing issue in the league, a fluid situation indeed. And one that absolutely affects Biscuits fans. All we can do is speculate, which is one thing fans are really good at, so lets get right to it!

Last summer the Huntsville team was sold to a group from Biloxi.

The Biloxi group agreed to build a stadium. In June, they signed a deal for their new ballpark. The deal stated that it would take 12 months to build. The Biloxi owners chose the 12-month build over one that would have taken just 10 months to complete.
proposed Biloxi stadium

Since the team had its lease for the ballpark in Huntsville for all of 2o15, they used it for some games. They also held "home" games in road parks such as Jacksonville and Pearl, Miss as they prepared the new stadium in Biloxi.

However, the team ownership told everyone that they would open sooner than the 12 months. They even sold tickets. Announcements of opening in June was met with happy fans in Biloxi and road team fans looking forward to visiting a brand-new facility.

Now it turns out that the 12 month building project will ACTUALLY take 12 months! The Biloxi team won't have a park for those tickets they sold. And no refunds on those tix, they can be turned in for another game (which works if you want to watch a Brewers affiliate, but road team fans get the shaft!)
incomplete Biloxi ballpark April 2015

The city of Biloxi has declined to pony up the additional money to finish the park early. The money was taxpayer cash and there was no guarantee that the park could be done in time, even with the extra money. So basically, the city has told the Southern League and the Biloxi team owners that there won't be a "certificate of occupancy" for the ballpark until at least August.

A phone call to the Biloxi team office dropped a bit of a bombshell on me - the team intends to play baseball at the Biloxi park in June "in spite of what the mayor says".

That is a direct quote, though the Shuckers phone answer-er said the team would finalize the opening night details later.


My phone call to the box office in Mobile, supposedly the first Biloxi opponent, yielded no information. I was told early next week is when I should call back for more info.

There were quite a few "uh" and "uhms" when I quizzed the box office guy on if the series was in Biloxi or if Mobile would host.

They obviously don't know yet.

No answer to phone calls mid-afternoon.
No surprise there, as nobody shows up for games, so why would they be there in the afternoon?

Of course, If the games do get re-scheduled there, the broadcasters might have a hard time finding the booth.

John answered cordially "No comment" when I called.
No matter what question I asked on the topic of Biloxi's opening series, I got the same answer.

Asked when we might expect a comment from the league office got the same answer. Asked about the level of league office involvement, same. Timetable for resolution, same. Possibility of relocating the games, same. Preparation requirements for a possible relocated series, same.

Afterwards I found more info from league officials in news reports, including quotes directly related to my questions, so I am less than happy with the response from the office. They pretty much treated me like I was wasting their time. It was a "get nothing and like it" from the executives, who obviously don't have much invested in giving fans answers.

The only question I did get a comment on, regarding the Biloxi stadium situation? Yes, I am the only person who has called the office for information.

(To be fair, John liked my suggestion of having the SL HOF as a roving display, at the home park of the team hosting that years AllStar Game. He also provided me a contact email so I could keep pummeling him with questions.)

He suggested I contact the City of Biloxi for more information.
So I did.

The person who answered the phone at the Biloxi Mayors office had not much more info, but was really friendly about it. I was obviously not the first to inquire about this topic.
She did make me aware that it was an issue they were aware of and told me June 2nd the Biloxi City Council was scheduled to meet, discuss and likely vote on the opening of the new stadium.

Obviously I made several attempts to get info from the Biscuits, but the short notice has probably left them scrambling. Just ten days ago I had a conversation with a high-ranking front office person who told me the team had made hotel reservations in Biloxi and there had been "no internal discussion" towards a contingency plan.

Well, they better start.

The same source who talked about hotel reservation also said that it would not fly to host the Biloxi series in June. That would give the Biscuits 21 games in 30 days, including the SL AllStar Game. It was implied that the team couldn't arrange the logistics of ushers, concessions and other basic duties and still focus on the ASG.

In talking to the Biscuits box office, the expectation seems to be that the games will not be hosted at Riverwalk and the trending opinion was that Huntsville would be the location for the Biloxi Vagabonds series.

Last rites have been read over Joe Davis Stadium at least twice already, now it may be due another months worth of games. Stories about the last home game have been written and published, perhaps to be rendered in error.

The guy at the SLeague office rebuffed me when I said it looked like the City of Biloxi and the Biloxi team weren't working well together. Yet its obvious that there is a wire crossed somewhere, the team and the city simply disagree on when to open the park.

It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to sniff out a different story than the one we are hearing, this is what happens when the league office lets teams and cities handle things on their own.

Otherwise, its totally at the feet of the league president, right? Either the league handled it and screwed it up, or the league let someone else handle it and have watched it get screwed up from afar.

League Prez Lori Webb
Cause it can't be both, they will never convince me this has gone smoothly. Teams don't generally open ballparks mid-season, they certainly don't sell tickets for games they know they cant hold.

“We're trying to go with the flow and help them out as much as we can,” the league president Lori Webb said, quoted in a story on WLOX website.

That pretty much clears it up, don't it fans?

The worst part of all this is that all along we have known the stadium wouldn't be ready, only to be told it would by every team and league official.

Its incredibly frustrating to be told the sky is green when we can obviously see that it isnt. The time for back room league moves and covert team planning is over. Maybe thats how it worked in the past but baseball seems to think it can keep up the charade and fans will play along.

We don't forget these things. Honesty would have sold alot more tickets than the double-switch being pulled on us.

But what else should we expect from a casino team and a green league president?

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