The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

January 6, 2014

Our View: Public up to bat

— Joplin residents should take advantage of a public hearing on Tuesday to ask questions and air their opinions about a proposed $9.3 million redevelopment to Joe Becker Stadium.

The meeting — unless the arctic weather gets the best of us — is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday on the fifth floor of City Hall, 602 S. Main St. That’s when Joplin residents will be afforded time to weigh in on the idea that owners of a franchise in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball have pitched to the city.

WLD Suarez Baseball, former operators of the Diablos of El Paso, Texas, want to increase stadium seating at Joe Becker from 2,000 to around 4,500, install new restrooms and update the concession stand and press box.

That would cost taxpayers $4 million. Suarez says it will put up the additional $5.3 million to complete the project.

The City Council is currently in negotiations with the owners of the franchise and are working out details of a 10-year lease. The council also has to determine where the $4 million would come from.

Comments we’ve received from the public on our Facebook page are largely supportive. Among them:

“If we could build something to par with Hammons in Springfield, we might actually lure a Major League Baseball farm team. This town should be a baseball Mecca, given the history of who has graced the local fields. We need to do whatever we can to recapture that and draw people back to the game,” said one commentor.

“Joplin could very well use that addition to the city,” said another.

And another: “I’m all for it. Joplin has great baseball history, the great Mickey Mantle is smiling down.”

Others aren’t quite an enthusiastic.

“We need a lot more emphasis on fixing our broken streets, buildings and surroundings before worrying about this type of thing. If we have a nice-looking city, we won’t have to lure in businesses; they will want to come all on their own.”

There are two questions that we have asked and so far haven’t received answers. What’s the price of admission? Will tickets be priced at a level that area residents can afford to make return visits to the stadium?

We also need to know how many people need to show up so this endeavor can make it. The franchise is asking for a 4,500-seat stadium. But realistically, how many seats need to be filled on average? Is that number 500 or 1,000 or something much higher?

That fact that the franchise is willing to invest a big chunk of its own money in Joplin makes this proposal a realistic one. And our readers are correct. Joplin does have a rich baseball history.

Can we play ball? We would encourage residents to attend the Tuesday night meeting and let their views be known.

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