November 22, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain`s Pipe Yard home to top-notch Prospect League

LORAIN — When the NorthCoast Knights debut this summer at the Pipe Yard in Lorain, the team will be part of the largest collegiate baseball league in the nation.

The team has a stake in the East Division of the new Prospect League — a league recently re-branded after the Central Illinois Collegiate League announced a major expansion that will see it stretch from Missouri to Pennsylvania.

Josh Hayes, managing member of the team’s operating group Ballpark Memories, said the affiliation means the Pipe Yard will be home to some of the country’s upper-tier, amateur players, and odds are, some may even be local.

“We’re in the tedious process of narrowing down a pool consisting of thousands of college players, and hometown guys are the first ones we’re looking at,” he said.

“The draw for them is exposure — they’re going to travel all over the Midwest playing in top-notch facilities and in front of pro scouts every day.”

In September, City Council approved a five-year lease agreement with the team that calls for 30 home games at the stadium in summer 2009.

The lease carries the option to terminate the lease or renegotiate after the second year if the team fails to bring at least $50,000 in sign revenue, $35,000 in sponsorships and $50,000 in ticket sales. There is also a clause for merchandise and promotional sales.

A baseline revenue of $32,000 is guaranteed to the city, which is slightly more than what The Pipe Yard collected in signs and leases in each of its first two seasons.

The commitment doesn’t interfere with the city’s current deal with the Cleveland State University baseball team, and is structured so that if the team’s revenues increase, the city’s revenue grows, too. Tickets for the games are expected to start at $5.

Hayes said the Knights wouldn’t be playing any teams from the Frontier League, which is considered a separate semipro baseball league, but that the addition of both teams to the county would definitely add a lot of local excitement for fans.

The yet-to-be-named Frontier League team will begin its season this spring at the new 5,000-seat stadium being built at Interstate 90 and state Route 611.

“Having both teams in this region does great things,” he said. “It certainly brings great awareness of baseball and the type of baseball we can bring to Northeastern Ohio.”

Contact Stephen Szucs at 329-7129 or sszucs@chroniclet.com.