Traxler: Mitchell a good fit for Northwoods team
There are a lot of ifs involved and a lot of hurdles that need to be crossed to get a Northwoods League team to the Corn Palace City.
But with that said, I'm firmly in the camp that is eager to see a franchise come to Mitchell.
There has been no formal opposition to a team coming to town from city officials, which would appear to make municipal approval likely. But everything is still in a holding pattern until the city officially signs an agreement with the league, which could come soon.
We don't know when the sprawling league will actually decide to expand, likely with Huron, which has already been approved by the NWL's Board of Directors. It could be in 2018, or it could be 2020, although league Chairman Dick Radatz Jr. told The Daily Republic last month he hopes it would be sooner rather than later.
We can glean a few ideas of what Mitchell's team might look and feel like based on what the other Northwoods League franchises in the region have done, as far as ballpark amenities and ticket pricing. Here's a few items to expect if and when Mitchell gets its team.
• Stadium: The average stadium size in the league is about 3,200 seats, or about the capacity of the Corn Palace. Mitchell's franchise will be able to get by with much less, as seven teams have stadiums of 2,000 seats or less. Drake Field doesn't really have a capacity at all, given that the seating is made up of portable bleachers. The good thing about Drake is that there is flexibility to build more infrastructure that would be needed for what is essentially a minor league franchise.
• Ticket prices: Single-game tickets generally start between $7 to $9 per person and go up from there. Every team in the league has a five-game or seven-game ticket package that averages out to less than $15 per game and includes a number of perks, including free food, gear and premium seating. Season tickets vary greatly by team and the number of seating options.
• Fan deck: Every team in the NWL has at least one fan deck and some have two or three, either located along the lines in the outfield or behind the outfield fence. A ticket includes a buffet of ballpark food and non-alcoholic drinks, generally for the first five innings of the game. These tickets generally start at about $27 per game.
• City size: If Huron and Mitchell get onboard at the same time, Mitchell would be the second smallest city in the league, only ahead Huron. The average city in the league has 75,000 residents but Mitchell's size doesn't appear to be a deterrent for league officials.
• The season: Currently, the Northwoods League campaign—more than 70 games played from June to August—is broken into two halves and the division winners of each half meet in the playoffs at the end of the season. A three-game series between the two playoff winners is played for the league title, known as the Summer Collegiate World Series.
There's also questions about the team's nickname and colors and those should be fun discussions to have at some point, as well.
Yes, Mitchell has a lot of baseball already on its plate each summer, between the Legion, amateur and youth seasons. But this is an opportunity to see a higher level of baseball and to develop an identity with a team that will almost certainly produce professional players and possible major leaguers.
If Mitchell and the surrounding area supports this potential franchise like they do for area sports during the rest of the year, any other issues will take care of themselves.