When the Bakersfield Blaze new ownership group bought the team just before the 2012 season, one of the first things they announced was the plan to build a new baseball complex for the Blaze. Bakersfield is well known to be one of the oldest stadiums in the minor leagues and has high school dimensions with a 354 foot fence in center field. The original announcement was to have the stadium finished by the start of the 2014 season. During this season it was announced that the stadium would be pushed back and would be ready by the start of the 2015 season.
Fast forward to yesterday evening and this press release showed up in my inbox:
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (October 7, 2013)—The owners (Gene Voiland and Chad Hathaway) of the Bakersfield Blaze released the following statement today:
Over the past two years we have worked tirelessly with many people to build a privately-financed stadium that the people of Bakersfield could be proud of and would support. We made significant efforts to raise money from inside Kern County and nationally. Although we obtained significant commitments for the project, we fell substantially short of the goal required to build a stadium that would be successful. We are very thankful to those dedicated partners (contractors, government officials, land owners and investors) who were willing to step up and make an investment in Baseball and the Bakersfield community. Bakersfield should be one of the best Minor League Baseball markets in the country, and the stadium would have been transformational for the city and region. Disappointingly, a new stadium appears to be very unlikely.
This will leave open plenty of questions without many answers at this point. A few years ago there was a plan in place to move the Bakersfield franchise to the Carolina League, but Minor League Baseball put a nix on that plan. One interesting option available is that the former owner of the team could buy back the Blaze, which was included in the sale of the team if they could not build the new stadium. The current owners and the former owner both have stated that they don’t really have a plan at this point, so things are very much up in the air.
Without a new stadium, I just can’t see how the franchise will survive. The facilities are very outdated and absolutely no one shows up at the games. They averaged just over 800 people per home game this season. While the Reds aren’t tied to Bakersfield forever, they are only under contract with them through 2014, there is a chance they could be with them longer. Looking at another plan to move the team to the Carolina League seems to me to be the best plan of action.
What needs to happen immediately though is figure out what to do for 2014. Parts of the current stadium have already been removed in anticipation for beginning work for the new stadium.