San Antonio Scores Triple-A Baseball Due to Its Low 650-Foot Altitude

by

Then mayor Ivy Taylor poses with San Antonio Missions owner David Elmore and mascots Ballapeno and Henry the Puffy Taco during a April 2016 press conference announcing the city's intention of pursuing Triple-A baseball. That "dream" came true on Wednesday. - TWITTER/MAYOR IVY TAYLOR
  • Twitter/Mayor Ivy Taylor
  • Then mayor Ivy Taylor poses with San Antonio Missions owner David Elmore and mascots Ballapeno and Henry the Puffy Taco during a April 2016 press conference announcing the city's intention of pursuing Triple-A baseball. That "dream" came true on Wednesday.
San Antonio finally lured a Triple-A baseball club to town. Not because local ownership secured the needed financing for a brand-new stadium instead of possibly relying on taxpayer funds (because that hasn’t happened) or because city officials approved development plans (because they haven’t).

No, San Antonio will become one of the newest hosts of the thrill ride that is Triple-A ball because of its low altitude.

Indeed. At approximately 650-feet above sea level, San Antonio is not only the ideal urban playground to live, work and play without the possibility of pesky altitude sickness and oxygen deficit-related upset stomach, but it’s apparently also the perfect training ground for role players fighting for a roster spot on the Milwaukee Brewers.

On Wednesday, in a blockbuster three-way trade that surely made the opening segment of SportsCenter, Elmore Sports Group announced that the Double-A San Antonio Missions will move to Amarillo due to an agreed upon, soon-to-be-built $45.5 million ballyard in downtown Amarillo.

That clears the base paths for the Triple-A Colorado Sky Sox’s 2019 move to Wolff Stadium, the current home of the Double-A Missions. The third team in the chartbusting, bestselling, sold out, get on the waiting list, gold and silver and platinum epic, the rookie-level Helena Brewers, will take the Sky Sox’s place in Colorado Springs. (The Elmore Group owns the Sky Sox, Missions and the Helena Brewers.)

It’s a deal that has been in the works for over a year.

The Sky Sox, which have called Colorado Springs home for 30 years, used to be a farm club for the Colorado Rockies, the Major League Baseball franchise that plays their home games in Denver at the 5,211-foot-high Coors Field, by far the highest in the big leagues.

But following the 2014 season, the Rockies moved their Triple-A operations to Albuquerque's Isotopes Park, which is just barely below a mile high, to better simulate its home-run-friendly field conditions. Instead of a 2.50 earned run average, which is considered solid league-wide, a 6.75 ERA for a Rockies’ hurler, who just can’t get his knuckle curve to torpedo into the dirt because of the thin air, is grounds for a contract extension.

In 2015, the Milwaukee Brewers became the parent club of the Sky Sox and have played Triple-A games inside of Colorado Springs’ Security Service Field ever since. At 6,531 feet, it’s the highest ballpark in North America, according to The Gazette in Colorado Springs, which first reported the Sky Sox’s proposed relocation.

It never made sense for the Brewers Triple-A affiliate to train deep in the Rocky Mountains because Milwaukee’s Miller Park sits at a San Antonio-esque 602 feet above sea level.

“The altitude is the big albatross in the room for us to be able to find and maintain that major league partner for Triple-A baseball in the long term," said Sky Sox president and general manager Tony Ensor in an April 2016 report by The Gazette.

When then mayor Ivy Taylor and David Elmore announced – in a goofy news conference attended by Ballapeno and Henry the Puffy Taco – San Antonio’s intention of pursuing Triple-A baseball, there was zero mention of the altitude factor.

During that April 2016 presser, there also wasn’t a financing package in place for a proposed new $75 million stadium, a deal that Taylor kind of sort of pulled out of after a city-commissioned feasibility study apparently showed that Triple-A baseball isn't the payday equivalent of backing up the truck to an open, unmonitored bank vault.

“This foolish journey is not over,” then City Councilmember and now mayor Ron Nirenberg told the Current in September. “Meanwhile, we’re spending money and resources on trying to find a developer for a Triple-A stadium.”

More than a year later, there still isn’t a blueprint in the works to build a Triple-A stadium to usurp the 9,200-person capacity Wolff Stadium. Last April, the Elmore Group said that they weren’t planning on paying one dime of the $75 million expense.

“While we have not yet determined what the specific baseball stadium needs are to advance to Triple-A, nor have we secured private sector development partners or a stadium development plan, we will begin that process immediately,” said Missions’ president Burl Yarbrough in a prepared statement on Wednesday.

Hours after Nirenberg was sworn into the mayor’s seat vacated by Taylor, he addressed the minor-league baseball shakeup, which probably sent seismic waves all over professional sports from here to the Maldives, in a prepared statement released by the Missions.

“We understand that Wolff Stadium has been approved for Triple-A play in the short run. As far as any new stadium is concerned, the Elmore Sports Group has not yet presented the city with a stadium development plan that includes a private investment team, nor has a specific site been selected for a new stadium development."

It seems that Wolff Stadium could be both the short- and long-term solution if the Sky Sox' attendance history is also shipped to Texas.

As reported by The Gazette, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox home attendance last season came in around 4,600 fans per game. It was the smallest attendance number in the entire Pacific Coast League, a figure that would exactly fill Wolff Stadium — by half its capacity.


comment