Lynx reportedly set to move to Allentown

Orioles' Triple-A affiliate would move from Ottawa to Pennsylvania in 2008

Baseball

July 01, 2005|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

Within the next three years, the Orioles could have the major parts of their farm system within a short drive of their home base.

The Pennsylvania legislature is expected to approve a bill today that would provide the revenue formula for a $34.3 million stadium in Allentown, a city of 104,000 less than three hours away.

The new 7,000-seat ballpark would be the home of the Ottawa Lynx, the Orioles' fan-starved, Triple-A team, sources told The Morning Call of Allentown. The team would relocate in time for the 2008 season.

Joseph Finley, who with partner Craig Stein had hoped to bring a Single-A team to Allentown, confirmed that he and Stein hold an option on a team. But he told the newspaper he was restricted by a confidentiality agreement from naming the team or level of ball.

Lynx owner Ray Pecor could not be reached for comment.

Kyle Bostwick, the team's general manager, said: "It's flavor of the month. It's us going to Harrisburg. It's us going to Bowie. It's us going to Anywhere, USA. Nothing's concrete. Nothing's firm."

Randy Mobley, president of the 14-team International League, said: "I don't think that anyone would be surprised that Ray Pecor would be exploring options. It can't continue long term as it is. The man shouldn't lose as much money as he has."

If the Lynx relocate, Canada would be down to one team in organized baseball - the Toronto Blue Jays.

Mobley said a sale of the franchise would require approval of the International League, National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues and baseball commissioner Bug Selig.

Pecor also would have to get out of a stadium lease with Ottawa that ends in 2009.

If the deal is consummated, only the Bluefield Orioles, the parent club's Rookie-level team, would be more than a three-hour car ride from Baltimore.

The Orioles made Ottawa part of its minor league system in 2002, after being shown the door by its affiliate of 42 years, the Rochester Red Wings.

The arrangement may have looked good on paper: a team in the Canadian capital; a 10,332-seat ballpark, just minutes from downtown; a deep-pockets owner; and a general manager considered one of the best in the International League.

But the deal proved to be a logistical nightmare for the Orioles and a financial disaster for Pecor, who also owns the Nationals' Single-A team, the Vermont Expos.

There are few, if any, direct flights between Baltimore and Ottawa, which makes calling up or sending down players a delicate choreography that does not lend itself to quick fixes.

Lynx management said the team annually loses as much as $1 million Canadian. Although declining to discuss the details, Pecor acknowledged that it has been difficult to have a business that deals in two currencies.

"It's a struggle paying all the bills in U.S. dollars, but collecting income in Canadian dollars," he said in an interview in his Burlington office earlier this month. "I'm losing my fanny. No one should be forced to lose money."

The team rarely draws more than 2,500 spectators to a game and ranks last in the International League in total attendance. Last year, Ottawa drew 159,619; the next-lowest was Charlotte at 265,271.

Pecor, who bought the team from Lynx founder Howard Darwin in 2000, said the team needs to average 4,500 to 5,000 to break even.

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