By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer
HAMILTON - Investors hoping to bring a minor-league baseball team to Hamilton are targeting 2005 as the inaugural season.
"It's possible it could be 2004," said Terry Bridge, who is organizing an investor group. "But realistically, it's 2005."
It would take about $1.5 million from the investor group to pay a league franchise fee and finance start-up operating costs, Mr. Bridge said Friday at a luncheon at the Hamiltonian Hotel sponsored by the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and the city's Vision 2020 Commission.
Kert Radel, chairman of the city's Baseball Advisory Committee, emphasized that Hamilton isn't large enough to support a minor-league baseball team by itself.
It will take the support of the entire county and beyond, he said.
City officials and business leaders believe a minor-league baseball team would pump life back into downtown Hamilton and improve the city's sluggish economy.
Mr. Radel said minor-league baseball is a good business investment and provides great, low-cost family entertainment.
"Every year, attendance goes up at every level of the minor leagues," he said.
"Minor-league baseball will work in whatever city you put it in if it's run right."
Mr. Bridge and his group are considering applying for a franchise with either the Frontier League or the Northern League. Both are independent leagues not affiliated with Major League Baseball.
The Frontier League would offer the attraction of regional rivalries with teams in Richmond, Ind., and Florence, Ky. The Florence team will begin play next season.
Because of their proximity to Hamilton, the Florence and Richmond teams would have to approve the awarding of a Frontier League team to Hamilton by waiving territorial rights.
Gary Enzweiler, one of the owners of the Florence franchise, said his group has no interest in waiving his territorial rights.
Bill Lee, Frontier League commissioner, and Mike Stone, Northern League commissioner, say Hamilton has potential as the site of a pro baseball team, but that many questions have to be answered before a franchise could be awarded.
A new stadium, which would cost $7 million to $10 million, would be privately funded.
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