Making the case for renovating Zephyr Field for baseball again
It is an unsettling sight.
Zephyr Field sits empty, and it only partially has to do with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even when the field was operational this winter, it was to be used for only eight games of NOLA Gold Rugby.
If minor league baseball is to come back, it will not only take a local ownership group that is willing to invest millions in the park. It will take additional millions from the state of Louisiana.
So, the real question is, does the state really want baseball?
Since the Triple-A Baby Cakes announced their departure for Wichita, Kansas, there didn’t seem to be any groundswell of support for baseball to return.
Former Zephyrs and Baby Cakes announcer Ron Swoboda said this week that Zephyr Field needs many improvements from the studs up. He noted crucial needs like a new playing surface and a new scoreboard.
Swoboda didn’t even mention modern upgrades needed for the locker rooms and the suites.
A renovation of the field somewhere in the $3-5 million range may only scratch the surface of what is truly needed.
Swoboda said the condition of the stadium itself wasn’t the only thing neglected at the facility.
“The thing that bothered me was there no tribute to Louisiana baseball, college or professional,” said Swoboda. “There should be posters or pictures of people that were important in the development of baseball in Louisiana. The Hall of Fame guys were hiding by plaques by the elevator that nobody saw.”
Swoboda said he was convinced that Baby Cakes ownership had their eyes on the door, even as they unveiled a new nickname and slew of merchandise.
“I’m believing that when they renamed that team the Baby Cakes, and everybody went ‘what?’ I am believing at that time point and time, they had made a decision (to leave),” said Swoboda.
“We are going to rebrand this thing, we are going to sell stuff online and elsewhere, while we are looking for our next stop.”
Even as baseball moves to contract the number of minor league teams, the price of being in minor league baseball gets more expensive.
Madison County in north Alabama authorized $46 million to bring Double-A baseball back to Huntsville.
The Rocket City Trash Pandas (I’m not making that up, trust me) will play their home games at Toyota Field.
So, if Huntsville and Biloxi can build new ballparks, why can’t Louisiana fix the one they have?
In the meantime, Zephyr Field sits empty, a relic only 23 years and two months after it opened.
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WGNO Sports Director/106.1 FM
Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…