Though the Yakima Bears ultimately won the right to move to a new Hillsboro (Ore.) ballpark, the Boise Hawks asked for the move and prompted a vote among short-season Northwest League owners.
The owners ultimately voted 7-1 to allow the Bears to move to Hillsboro in 2013 (presumably the Hawks were the only vote against), according to this Tom Fox report, but the fact that the Hawks were ready to call it quits in what many consider to be a pretty good market -- one eyed for a Triple-A team by investors -- says a lot about how owner Neil Leibman feels about his team's future in the Treasure Valley. Yes, Memorial Stadium is outdated and either needs improvements or replacement. And yes, there's much sentiment in the area for a new downtown ballpark; opponents who argue area residents won't go downtown for a sporting event ignore the continued success of pro hockey and basketball playing out of a -- yup -- downtown arena.
We're thinking the Hawks might have not played the situation well by invoking the name of the Chicago Cubs in their quest for a new facility. Having Bill Buckner come in and say the Hawks might lose their Cubs affiliation if a new ballpark was not forthcoming probably didn't sway many opinions on a new ballpark: nothing pisses off a Westerner like an out-of-town organization coming in and issuing a threat or two, even if the messenger is a local. Keeping the Cubs as a parent probably isn't nearly as important to the average Boise Hawks fan as you'd assume. (A Rockies or Mariners affiliation, on the other hand....)
But here's the interesting thing: Fox says Leibman has offered to pay construction costs and lease payments toward a new ballpark. That only leaves the land cost. That's a pretty generous offer, one that most cities would jump at. We know the unsettled future of the Tucson Padres (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) has some business leaders thinking they should think higher than Northwest League ball. And there's no doubt Boise is a good fit for the Pacific Coast League in terms of demographics and travel. But to have a team make such a generous offer and not having it snapped up immediately -- while simultaneously angling for a move to the Portland area -- says that there's much more to this story than we know.
RELATED STORIES: As Hawks open season, new Boise ballpark in limbo; Cubs: We'll drop Boise affiliation without new ballpark; Hawks GM: Boise can't support Triple-A ball; Boise still in the crosshairs of PCL?; Ricketts: Boise's Memorial Stadium is substandard; Boise as Triple-A market? There's talk; Boise ballpark search to focus on downtown sites; Boise in search of new ballpark site; Memorial Stadium / Boise Hawks
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