Baseball is back in Robstown.
Nueces County Commissioners last week approved a license agreement with the Continental Baseball League to bring a new franchise to make use of the county's Fairgrounds Field.
The stadium, located near the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds in Robstown, has been vacant since August, after the end of the Coastal Bend Aviators' 2007 season. The county terminated the team's 20-year contract in October after the Aviators failed to pay more than $20,000 in costs for using the baseball stadium.
This time around, the agreement between the county and CBL will not be a long-term contract, lasting a maximum of three years in its current form. The league has an agreement for two years, but the county has an option to renew the contract for the 2010 baseball season.
"I think we have come up with a very good contract," said Precinct 3 Commissioner Oscar Ortiz.
One reason the deal was so attractive to the county was also the opportunity for revenue sharing, an option that did not exist with the Aviators. According to the license agreement, the county will receive $1 per ticket sold after 700 paid tickets are purchased to a game.
In addition, the CBL will give the county 50 percent of luxury suite gross sales. The CBL will also pay $450 per home game or other sporting event for maintenance and rental fees. The deal, Ortiz said, will only benefit the residents of Nueces County.
"We offered the stadium to these people at a fair rate and they put a package together that shared revenue from ticket sales and box seats," Ortiz said. "This is what we envisioned being out there - superior-class baseball at a low cost to citizens."
Ron Baron, president of the CBL, said the league wanted to prove it was "in it for the long haul" when it made the decision to share ticket revenue.
"We wanted to show that we were for real and were going to be partners in this," Baron said.
Baron said because of the economic structure of the league, ticket prices will be about $6 to $8 each. This is because the CBL has a total operating budget of about $250,000, compared to $750,000 to $1 million for other independent leagues.
Each team has a $25,000 cap for player salaries, meaning each player makes about $1,000 a season. Baron said despite that, players perform at a high level because they are passionate about playing the game and the opportunity to play Major League Baseball.
"It's all about the pursuit of a dream," Baron said.
A name for the new team will be selected by fans, league officials said, via a Web site to be announced within the next week. Until then, fans will just have to wait and see what unfolds during the resurrection of a baseball team at Fairgrounds Field.
County Judge Loyd Neal seemed to sum up that anticipation at last week's meeting with just a few words.
"I just want to say, 'Play ball,'" Neal said.