Lafayette city leaders made it official Tuesday: a summer league baseball team will call Columbian Park’s Loeb Stadium home, starting next summer.
The city has been in negotiations with Milwaukee-based sports marketing firm MKE Sports and Entertainment since spring, and this week inked a deal that leases the city’s stadium to the firm, which will develop a new team to become part of the collegiate wooden-bat Prospect League.
Prospect League Commissioner Bryan Wickline says the league has had its sights set on Lafayette as a potential home for a club for a few years. He says it’s difficult to find an existing stadium not already in use that could accommodate a team.
"Obviously we were attracted to Loeb Stadium first," he says. "Then second comes the market -- You’ve got a nice-sized population here that can support prospect league baseball. Third is an operator, you’ve got to have a good operator, and MKE sports has proved that down the road in Kokomo."
The League has teams in nearby Terre Haute, Kokomo and Danville, Illinois. Kokomo’s parks commissioner was on hand Tuesday to drum up competition between his city and Lafayette – the two closest opponents in the league. The “Battle of 26 Rivalry” – named for the state road connecting the two cities -- will feature a trophy going to the winner of each year’s season series.
Lafayette Parks Superintendent Claudette Laufman says she hopes baseball games will turn trips to the park into all-day family excursions:
"Maybe in the past, individuals have stayed an hour or two during their visit to Columbian Park," she says. "Maybe this will get folks to stay even longer and take in a baseball game."
Mayor Tony Roswarski has said having a Prospect League Team at Loeb might help drum up funding for construction on a new stadium in a few years.