Some very interesting news out of Colorado Springs this afternoon, as Brent Briggeman of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports that the Brewers Triple-A affiliate, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, could be on the move:
The Elmore Sports Group, which owns the Sky Sox, also owns four other minor league teams, including the Double-A San Antonio Missions. Emails uncovered by the Amarillo Globe-News suggest that they might be working to move their Triple-A team, the Sky Sox, to San Antonio while relocating the Missions to Amarillo, whose citizens just approved a new $35 million stadium.
Amarillo has been seeking to draw a team from the Double-A Texas League to occupy their stadium, which has not yet broken ground.
There are a number of factors that come into play with this potential move. On the business side, the Sky Sox' attendance numbers have been dipping for years despite being the top affiliate for the in-state major league team for 21 years prior to the Rockies' decision to sign with the Albuquerque Isotopes last winter. The Sky Sox were second-to-last in attendance last season. Additionally Security Service Field, built in 1988, is aging and Colorado Springs residents recently rejected a proposal for a new downtown stadium.
From a player development standpoint, it's no secret that Colorado Springs' facilities, located over 6,500 feet above sea-level, is a nightmare for pitchers. The Sky Sox have had a team ERA that ranked in the bottom three of the Pacific Coast league every year since 2005. Not only are pitchers adversely affected, but it becomes hard to truly gauge the development of hitters as their numbers become inflated due to playing at the highest altitude professional park in North America.
Any move the Sky Sox might make is in no way imminent; the president of the Texas League recently stated that "the San Antonio Missions are not moving anywhere," though as with all statements of such nature, it should be taken with a large grain of salt. Additionally, not only is the Amarillo stadium still in it's infancy in terms of planning, but a new stadium would also need to be built in San Antonio should the Sky Sox move there, as their existing facilities are not large enough to house a Triple-A team.
Milwaukee's agreement with Colorado Springs ends next year, and it's unknown at this time whether either side intends to extend that agreement. The Brewers have been burned in the past by a Triple-A team building a new stadium, as they were pushed out of Nashville by the Sounds just as they were set to move into their brand new facility. The Sounds were reportedly upset by the Milwaukee organization's failure to compete at the Triple-A level and chose to sign an agreement instead with the Oakland Athletics, promptly losing 11 more games in 2015.
Milwaukee's decision to sign the two-year agreement with the Sky Sox last spring was not so much "love at first sight" as it was "last one left in the bar at 2 am," as the two organizations became dance partners after just about every other option was off the table. An agreement in place to move to San Antonio, which would be a positive not only from a business standpoint (San Antonio is the nation's 33rd largest market, compared to Colorado Spring's 88th), but also from a player development standpoint. However, the Brewers may be wary of helping a team move without some sort of guarantee that they won't be left at the altar again.