Edmonton Capitals suspend operations for 2012

 

Mayor Mandel disappointed no pro baseball at Telus Field this season

 
 
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The Edmonton Capitals celebrate their 7- 2 win over the Rio Grande Valley White Wings during Game 5 of the NAL championship playoffs in Edmonton Sept. 13, 2011.
 

The Edmonton Capitals celebrate their 7- 2 win over the Rio Grande Valley White Wings during Game 5 of the NAL championship playoffs in Edmonton Sept. 13, 2011.

Photograph by: Jason Franson

EDMONTON - Shutting down the Edmonton Capitals baseball team for 2012 was a tough but necessary decision, team governor Patrick LaForge said Tuesday.

The Capitals abruptly withdrew from the North American League on Tuesday, citing the plummeting participation of teams from around the semi-professional baseball league for the upcoming season. The NAL went from 10 teams in 2009 to four teams being registered to play this year. LaForge said that Rexall Sports and Entertainment (RSE), the group that owns the team along with the Oilers and Oil Kings, would use this year to find a more stable league to join in coming years.

“It is a tough decision,” LaForge said. “We suspended the team for one year and we’re working on finding a proper situation. It could include the NAL but it doesn’t have to, under these circumstances.”

The move caught city officials by surprise.

Mayor Stephen Mandel, a baseball fan, said it was disappointing to hear the team would not take to the field in 2012. “There’s lots of baseball fans who enjoy going to a game in the summer,” Mandel said. “It’s a family event.”

Edmonton is a city that loves baseball, Mandel said. The problem is the leagues sometimes aren’t strong, he said, adding the city’s northern location also makes it harder to attract teams from better quality leagues.

Mandel and other councillors hearing the news for the first time said they will have to get an update from city staff on the implications for Telus Field, a 9,000-seat city-owned facility that replaced the aging John Ducey Park in 1995 when Peter Pocklington’s Edmonton Trappers played there.

“Over the next little while our administration will talk with the Capitals group and see what the plans are,” Mandel said. “We can’t have a facility sitting there doing nothing. We’ll worry about that when the time comes.

“Hopefully, they can put together a league and a team that’s successful.”

RSE had been leasing Telus Field from the city of Edmonton on a year-to-year basis, LaForge said. RSE will continue to pay that lease this year and will continue to use the field for a variety of events.

So for this summer, baseball games will be rarer at Telus Field. The Canadian Little League championship will be there from Aug. 4 to 11. The International Baseball Federation’s women’s baseball world cup will run from Aug. 10 to 19. Those events will be sandwiched by concert bookings and Edmonton Prospects games, LaForge said.

The Prospects use John Fry Park for collegiate-level Western Major Baseball League games.

“We have worked well with the city on this project,” LaForge said of the lease agreement. “We fully intend to be their baseball partner for many, many years to come. We’re just taking this year off to find another opportunity.”

Oilers owner Daryl Katz bought the team — then called the Cracker-Cats — in 2009.

The Capitals were NAL champions last year and welcomed 125,000 fans to Telus Field over their 88-game season. Cash issues plagued other teams in the league, though. The championship series against the Rio Grande Valley Whitewings was held entirely in Edmonton as a cost-saving measure. The Capitals won that series in five games.

“I found out this morning, right before the press conference,” manager Orv Franchuk said from Arizona. “I am disappointed and didn’t see this coming.

“I am sure (Rexall Sports) has a reason and a vision for the future. I am still under contract and will help them with the vision.”

LaForge said that RSE has had an interest in shifting to a different league for some time, but with the 2012 season cancelled, the group can make serious efforts to make a move happen.

“We talked to other leagues, but only on a superficial level, saying ‘What are you guys thinking? Is Alberta an interest to you?’ Very superficial. Now we can get drilled down and really find out what’s going on and really look at our options.”

The big hope of baseball fans across the city remains the same as it has for the last eight years: That a triple-A team could return to Edmonton to replace the Trappers, who played here from 1981 to 2004. LaForge would like to see that himself, but said at this point “it’s a remote possibility.”

“From triple-A’s point of view, the Pacific Coast League that owns the territory rights for Western Canada, they’re based heavily in the southern United States,” LaForge said.

RSE will also explore other options this year as it tries to find the right fit for a league to join.

“There are options out there and that’s either in minor pro or in affiliated baseball at different levels. It’s a matter of we may have to be patient, but we’re out there looking around,” he said.

With files from Sarah O’Donnell and Cam Tait.

coleary@edmontonjournal.com

Twitter.com/olearychris

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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The Edmonton Capitals celebrate their 7- 2 win over the Rio Grande Valley White Wings during Game 5 of the NAL championship playoffs in Edmonton Sept. 13, 2011.
 

The Edmonton Capitals celebrate their 7- 2 win over the Rio Grande Valley White Wings during Game 5 of the NAL championship playoffs in Edmonton Sept. 13, 2011.

Photograph by: Jason Franson

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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