BY JOHN RENSHAW
ST. GEORGE The St. George Roadrunners made tremendous strides during its 2009 season within the Independent Golden Baseball League. Behind a franchise best 48-34 record, the Roadrunners secured its first Southern Division championship. That said, though, the three-year franchise officially closed its doors for good earlier this week after not turning a profit financially since its inception.
In an interview Wednesday morning, St. George Roadrunners GM Rick Berry said the team will not be renewing its contract with Bruce Hurst Field next season in a move that marks the end of the three-year franchise in southwestern Utah.
"We (the organization) made the decision last weekend (Dec. 4-6) that the St. George Roadrunners will not be back next season, St. George GM Rick Berry said. We were very optimistic about returning (for a fourth season) toward the end of last season, even releasing ownership opportunities to the public, but there just wasn't enough support.
We tried our best to weather the storm for three years on one of the lowest operating budgets in the Golden Baseball League, but financially we were unable to turn a net profit or break even financially."
Despite success on the field, attendance numbers were still low for home contests. Official statistics werent released Wednesday, but Berry said the low attendance combined with a drop in sponsorship revenue was too damaging for the Roadrunners majority owner Todd Vowell to keep operating beyond this point.
Its been a rough-go of it here lately, Roadrunners manager and former Major League Baseball player Cory Snyder said. The economys been bad for a while. Im just saddened by this whole thing. I really feel for Todd (Vowell) and his family. Theyve done everything possible to keep this franchise going in St. George. But you can only ask majority owners to do so much. To keep losing money year in and year out takes its toll.
This marks the second southwestern Utah Independent baseball franchise to fold this decade. The Zion/St. George Pioneerzz (1999-2001) went out of business due to the entire Western Baseball League closing up shop.
For full story, please visit http://www.thespectrum.com this evening or read Thursday's print edition of The Spectrum & Daily News.
It's gonna be a very long time before another team even tries to set up shop in Southern Utah after two teams fold within 10 years.
Last season, the Armada was trailing, 5-0, when they surged for a five-run inning to tie the game (and Long Beach didn't exactly have a threatening come-from-behind offense last season). The Runners ended up getting a walk-off hit from AJ Valentine to win it. Still, it was an exciting game at a great place to watch baseball.
Now what are GBL fans to do if they want a cupcake and baseball in a sitting? I know we don't have a cupcake stand at Blair Field.
From my experiences with folks in the RoadRunners organization, they are nothing but class acts. It was great to see them win the 1st half Championship in the South Division this year, especially if you can remember their 7-win first half in the inaugural season.
We'll miss you St. George. And we'll miss those $1 cupcakes on game days.
Well, I think as far as independant pro baseball, yes. Don't baseball teams need to have about 1500 at a home game for breaking even, as opposed to minor league basketball (at least in leagues like the IBL, PBL, etc.)?
I think that what ultimately did in the RoadRunners is that the economy and housing market totally tanked. Who knew that when the franchise (2006) was announced that we'd have this big crash? Growth has slowed to a trickle of about .5% for the last year, as opposed to the +20% when the city was the fastest growing city in the U.S. a couple of years ago.
I personally think that minor league baseball has the bar set a little higher than that of a lot of other minor league sports (40+ home games in the GBL, as opposed to ~20 or ~10).
Remember that both of these minor-league teams are both baseball franchises. Who knows how a St. George-based football or basketball could work out?
I have no reason to doubt that semi-pro teams (not minor-league) such as the St. George Blitz football team will still be successful; they seem to have a bit of a loyal nitche.
A basketball team in a league such as the IBL could be good, provided they don't stretch themselves too far (expecting to bring in ~1000 as opposed to 1500-2000, and have a five-year plan in a down economy). The IBL team that was nearly fielded pulled out because of ownership/sponsor issues.
I won't expect anything as far as the D-League while the economy is the way it is, but if that team is affiliated with the Utah Jazz, I think you have your best shot for a fully professional minor-league team's success in St. George.
I have talked with the Commissioner of the WSHL, and he expressed interest in a possible team here. Again, this league almost seems more semi-pro, but if this indoor ice arena ever happens, it could be a reasonable possibility.
Correct me if I'm wrong with the sports teams/economic facts, but that's what I've noticed when I've been to RoadRunner games; even most major-league baseball teams (if not all) don't expect to sell out the stadium for every game when they have 81 home games a year.
This might also seem counter-intuative, but what about an affiliated baseball team? I've always thought that maybe, just maybe, with a major-league affiliate, a St. George-based Pioneer League team might turn enough heads to be stable. Then again, we don't know when this economy will get drastically better, and how well St. George will rebound when it does.
(And yes, I'm keeping the unlikelyhood of a St. George PL team's success here in mind when I write this, as well as the unlikelyhood of the Pioneer League's expansion).
The reason the team has not put out an official release is because I was asked not to. We were under the assumption that the team would be back, but for all of the previously mentioned economic issues, the chances of running a profitable franchise in STG was not possible for the 2010 season.
I am not going to post anything new on the website unless instructed by Rick Berry or Todd Vowell.
If anyone has any questions, please feel free to contact me.