June Martinez Mayor's Message
May 29, 2017 09:26PM
● By Rob Schroder
Rob Schroder, Mayor of Martinez
MESSAGE FROM THE MAYOR
Last month, I wrote about how most city councils set priorities and allocate resources, and then, from that process, how the city staff builds the budget for the following two years. In Martinez, the city council members listed their top five priorities, and as a group, we managed to get consensus on almost 10 top tier priorities. Some of those priorities are mandated by law and some are basic services such as public safety, maintaining parks and filling potholes. Others are special projects such as master planning the Martinez Waterfront, paving dilapidated streets, and finishing the general plan.
As much as possible, the city council needs to stick to these agreed priorities and not distract themselves and city staff with other areas. The city has a finite amount of staff and financial resources, and any redirection of these resources requires another priority to be delayed.
However, from time to time, special opportunities can and do present themselves. A case in point is the possibility of a professional baseball team calling Martinez home. For the second time in three years, this opportunity is knocking on our door, and the entire city council and I feel it deserves an honest and serious analysis. That is why we recently directed city staff to explore the opportunities, challenges, solutions, and cost of bringing professional baseball to the City of Martinez.
About four months ago, I received an email from Kevin Riley, the owner of the Vallejo Admirals. He asked me what I thought about professional baseball in Martinez. I immediately responded to him that we had an opportunity three years ago but did not have an adequate field with lights, so they moved on to Pittsburg and are now the Pittsburg Diamonds. Kevin told me that the Pacific Association of Baseball was planning to expand their league by two teams starting in the 2018 season, and it was determined that Martinez is a good location for one of those teams.
A few days later, Kevin and his sales manager, Chris Owens, met me for lunch in downtown Martinez. Kevin told me his story and how he became the owner of the Vallejo Admirals and why the league felt Martinez had all of the attributes that could support a professional team. And, with the rebuilding of the four ball fields (with lights), parking lots, picnic grounds, and playgrounds at Waterfront Park this summer, timing for the 2018 season is perfect.
The Pacific Association was formed in 2012 and is an independent, high, single A level professional league. They have players from around the world refining their skills while pursuing spots with major league affiliated minor league teams such as the Sacramento River Cats and the Stockton Ports. Out of 240 minor league level teams in the United States, 59 are independent teams.
Although the league provides professional level competition and rivalry between host cities, every game is equal parts variety show, town-square, and good, clean fun. It is cross-cultural, spans all ages and genders, and energizes both kids and adults. Each game and each break between each half inning is an opportunity to highlight local community groups, events, and businesses.
The first step in developing a brand new team for any city is to find an investor or group of investors willing to be the owners of a professional baseball team. It takes a substantial investment of time and money to pay the league franchise fee, hire a manager and coach, and recruit players.
My first call after the meeting with Kevin and Chris was to Leanne Peterson, executive director of Main Street Martinez. She and I brainstormed on possible owners and came up with a few names. Over a period of several weeks, we had several meetings with potential owners and owners of other league teams and finally received a commitment from one group.
The next step was to bring this opportunity to the city council for consensus and to direct city staff to explore the opportunities, challenges and costs and report back to the city council. At the city council meeting on April 19, we unanimously directed staff to do so, and on May 17, we received that report. Without going into great detail, it gave us a good overview of the current plans for the reconstruction of Waterfront Park and what would need to be added to accommodate a professional baseball team, from a physical, operational, and maintenance perspective.
After questions and discussion, the city council again unanimously directed city staff to move forward with the current plans for Waterfront Park and the ball fields and incorporate the basic additional improvements to field #3. Soon we will be adopting a formal resolution, allowing the use of the field to the Pacific Association of Baseball Clubs and the Martinez Clippers, starting with the 2018 season, working out details of concessioner contracting, conflicts with current uses, clubhouse, bleachers, parking and field maintenance.
There is a real renaissance in Martinez, especially in downtown. New businesses are popping up all over, and there is a vibe that you can feel. Adding a professional baseball team to our town will bring even more economic development, visitors, and sense of community. This is an opportunity that will not come back to us a third time. We need to make this happen and bring the Clippers to Martinez.