Vote planned for new baseball stadium

Thursday, December 6, 2007 | 5:40 p.m. CST; updated 10:42 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — Members of American Legion Post 202 will vote Tuesday on whether to approve plans by the owners of the Mid-Missouri Mavericks to build a $5 million minor league baseball stadium and sports complex.

If the Legion approves the plan, the city and the Mavericks owners, Columbia Professional Baseball, would begin negotiating the logistics of the stadium’s construction, maintenance and operation.

Columbia Professional Baseball, which is co-owned by Brad and Gary Wendt, wants to have the stadium built in time for the Mavericks to play during the 2009 season. The stadium is targeted for 20 acres of property that the Legion formerly owned on Route WW, east of U.S. 63. The land, which now has several youth baseball fields, was donated to the city by the Legion in exchange for a sewer connection.

Brad Wendt said the stadium would be designed as a sports complex that could host a number of sports. The plans call for Columbia Professional Baseball to build the stadium, donate it to the city, then lease and maintain the facility.

Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said the stadium would be “built using zero tax dollars.”

Negotiations on the project have been going since September 2006. The delay has been caused in part by a debate among Legion members about whether the stadium would significantly change the family character the group wants to maintain on the property.

Attorney and Legion member Craig Van Matre said he thinks there’s a better than a 50 percent chance the stadium will pass the Tuesday vote. He said there is, however, opposition among members who live in the area.

“People would have to get used to seeing a baseball stadium lighting up from their backyards,” he said.

The Mid-Missouri Mavericks competed in the Frontier League at MU’s Taylor Stadium from 2003 through 2005. The season ran from May 15 through Sept. 15. The Mavericks had a 92-186 record and lackluster attendance.

Regardless, Wendt said Columbia is a good baseball venue.

“Missouri’s a great baseball state, and Columbia’s a great baseball city,” he said.

The Wendts decided to shut down the team after the 2005 season until a stadium could be built. Brad Wendt argued a fan-friendly stadium with chair-back seating and a more comfortable ambience would help make the Mavericks successful. He said, for example, that the stadium would have concession stands in view of the field.

“It’s irritating to go to a hot-dog stand, hear cheering and not be able to see what’s going on,” he said.

In anticipation of the potential loss of the youth fields, the city and county have been working to build a new youth baseball complex on 80 acres near the Boone County Fairgrounds that were donated by Tom Atkins.

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Bryan Ross December 7, 2007 | 10:16 p.m.

I think the Wendt's and the Mavericks are good corporate citizens and the arrangements they have discussed can only benefit the City and the Legion. I hope that the Legion members agree and allow this plan to move forward. I look forward to 2009 and the return of Maverick's baseball to Columbia.

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