The Joplin City Council voted to move ahead with lease negotiations for Joe Becker Stadium with the owners of the former El Paso Diablos (independent; American Association).
The Diablos shut down operations in El Paso's Cohen Stadium at the end of the 2013 season due to the impending move of the El Paso Chihuahuas (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) to a new downtown ballpark for the 2014 season. The owners of the franchise, WLD Suarez Baseball LLC, then approached Joplin officials about upgrades to Joe Becker. Last night the council agreed to a memorandum of understanding, setting the stage for more formal negotiations. From the Joplin Globe:
City Attorney Brian Head told the council the agreement is not a final commitment to the baseball team and does not cover every detail of a deal to commit to Suarez. “We will have to have two more major documents” approved in order to make the decision final, Head said. Those are a performance agreement that will specify the obligations of the Suarez group and a lease that details use of the stadium. Monday’s agreement represents a good faith effort to work with Suarez on those, Head told the council.
It allows further work toward the redevelopment of the stadium, a $9.3 million proposal. Joplin is being asked to provide $4 million in renovations to Joe Becker, and the Diablos ownership has proposed investing about $5 million in construction for an entry plaza and for parking for the ballpark.
Suarez representative Michael Wray told the council last month that Joe Becker needs more seating, new lights for night play and new restrooms.
There is plenty of history at Joe Becker Stadium: it opened in 1913 and hosted minor league baseball throughout the years; players like Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Joe Garagiola and Ken Boyer have graced the field. But it's small -- the official capacity now is 1,070 -- and it's not the same ballpark as the one from 1913, as it's been rebuilt twice due to fires. The Division II Missouri Southern Lions have called it home in recent years, but that program is departing for an on-campus facility.
Image courtesy Missouri Southern.
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