The two competing powerhouses of Victorian baseball have outlined their cases for the new ABL license, with the CEO of Victorian Baseball Stephen Nash explaining that they were awaiting final documentation before launching into analysing which city would hold the ABL license.
Ross Nielson, the President of the Waverley Baseball Club, says that he expects crowds to be as big as what they were when baseball was in its heydays in the early nineties.
“It’s already been proven that we can get crowds of up to 18,000 for Waverley Red’s games”.
Stephen Nash, CEO of Victorian Baseball, backs up his comments.
“We’d be looking at trying to get the crowds back, we are looking at seeing where the game’s going. I fully endorse those sorts of comments, if we get the right people involved, I think it’s very much possible”.
Tim Kaiser, the Chairman of the Geelong Baseball Centre, a state of the art facility that has been funded primarily from the City of Greater Geelong, states that the potential issue for Geelong getting a team, will be how much money they can put together. With up to $500,000 being the likely contribution towards a national representative team.
“Look it’s really difficult to say, a lot of things to go into it, the City of Greater Geelong would love to have one, but professional sports are very expensive”.
“Victoria in the first round will be given a team, someone is going to have stick their pocket out dramatically, unless the funding has changed and it’s a fully funded league”.
“You would still be looking at close to half a million dollars for investment, significant amount of money for any community, how are we going to fund that extra 40% on top of the MLB contributions?”
However Nash explains that the standard of venue will play a huge role on where to locate the Victorian franchise and says that no final decision on where the Victorian franchise will go has been made.
“Bottom line, we don’t know until the document has been signed off by the ABF and Major League Baseball for the competition has been made. The State Baseball Centre in Altona is the state baseball centre; The MLB will have certain requirements where you can stage the games, once we sit down and see where the best venue for us is, we can then make a decision”.
However Kaiser outlines that the players from CHEBA who came down to Geelong, recognised it as one of the best grounds they have ever played on and this comes before the investment of synthetic fields in the Geelong Baseball Centre, largely due to the great support from the local council.
“Absolutely, the most supportive council for baseball in Australia by a country mile. We are just putting the finishing touches of a $1 million dollar synthetic field, we will have within three years, physiotherapy room, fully self contained international training facility, when it’s finished, on a comparison with anything in America and without doubt the best training facility in Australian other than the seating”.
“CHEBA people have said it is one of the best baseball pitches they have ever played on”.
Ross Nielson explains that there has been talk of a facility even bigger than the Altona State Baseball Centre out at Keysborough on the Aces Golf Links.
“I don’t know if there is a venue, a purpose built stadium has been looked into. They have been talking about a specific baseball stadium, with specific stands running down the left and right side of the field”.
“The area they are talking about is the Aces Sporting Club, next to the Keysborough Golf Club, this was the talk some time ago, a person who has been very wealthy in baseball circles has been mentioning it”.
However Nielson said the site lacked any public transport to the facility, but would be in a better location than Altona and Geelong.
“People do not want to drive to Altona and Geelong”.
Nash did not know about the plans in place at Keysborough while he speculates that funding of a multi-purpose facility if needed could be more appropriate than simply a baseball specific venue, noting the Victorian State Government’s funding of the multi-purpose rectangular stadium.
“Well, I think there is always those possibilities, especially in Victoria, where the government are more so looking at multi-purpose stadium’s, we need to explore it”.
With the new Australian Baseball League to be announced in early August, Nash states that corporate and participation levels in Victoria will all increase, while the competitiveness of the Melbourne sporting market, will just be one small hurdle to get baseball back to its heydays.
“I would like to hope that we could more then match sports such as basketball in terms of participation and crowd levels. It has been widely known that Melburnians will go to an event”.
By Chris Egan