Renovate The Shrine on Airline to bring back minor league baseball

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It still pains me to drive by Zephyr Field and see an empty ballpark.

There were so many good memories there.

In 1998, more than a half million fans came to The Shrine on Airline to watch New Orleans Zephyrs baseball.

Three years later, LSU and Tulane played an epic Super Regional in that park.

An LSU appearance at Zephyr Field always seemed to feature a full house.

Now, the only tenant is rugby’s NOLA Gold, which played half of its eight regular-season home games before the coronavirus canceled the Major League Rugby season.

Baseball and soccer once co-existed at Zephyr Field. Rugby and baseball could theoretically do the same.

Former Zephyrs owner Walter Leger has said that he has an ownership group in place to bring professional baseball back.

Any momentum for returning baseball in time for the 2021 season has been lost to the coronavirus pandemic.

It can, however, happen in 2022.

Leger has said that minor league baseball wants it to happen.

Now, it’s up to the state of Louisiana to make it happen.

The Shrine is in need of millions of dollars of renovations and upgrades. Without them, there will be no team.

Zephyr Field was a good park when it opened in April of 1997 but quickly fell behind.

If you want to know what minor league baseball looks like in the Double-A Southern League, travel to Biloxi or Birmingham or Pensacola. Those ballparks have fewer seats than Zephyr Field but many more amenities.

It will take anywhere from $5 to 15 million to “fix” Zephyr Field.

You might say, how can the state even contemplate spending those dollars during a pandemic?

Understood.

Let me ask you this question? If the Saints or the Pelicans asked for the money, would they get it?

Thought so.

Does it not trouble anyone that cities around us have professional baseball, and New Orleans, with two major league sports franchises, does not?

Baseball in the Southern League makes sense. It is a bus league, more affordable than the Pacific Coast League of Triple-A. The bottom line for ownership is buying a bus and not putting a team on an airplane to fly to Tacoma or Colorado Springs to play minor league baseball is cost effective.

As the state of Louisiana looks past the virus and into the future, it should again see baseball at Zephyr Field, a baseball yard, plain and simple. Anything else that happens there is something that happens at a ballpark.

So, as a reporter drives down Airline Drive, he looks and see a ballpark. Along with that ballpark, he sees something else.

And that is neglect.

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Ed Daniels

Ed Daniels

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…

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