The Brewers will leave Helena and move to Colorado Springs in 2019, the club announced on Wednesday.
“Colorado Springs is a bigger market and the ballpark there has more amenities for both fans and player development,” general manager Paul Fetz said in an email.
The move comes at the tail end of a chain reaction of relocations by the Elmore Sports Group, which, along with the Brewers, owns the Triple-A Colorado Spring Sky Sox and Double-A San Antonio Missions. A new, reported $45.5 million stadium in downtown Amarillo will become host to the Missions, as the Colorado Springs Sky Sox will move and retain Triple-A status in San Antonio.
As the final chip in the pot, the Helena Brewers will move to Colorado Springs and play at Security Service Field, continuing to play in the Pioneer League. The move will make for much longer league-game trips, as the Brewers mostly travel by bus to face opponents in Montana, Idaho and Utah.
“My years in Helena have been some of my fondest in professional baseball. From the day we moved the club to Helena in 2002, I have enjoyed the people and community and I am sad to move the team at the end of the 2018 season,” Brewers owner DG Elmore said in a release issued by the team Wednesday morning. “I am glad there will be two more seasons in Helena and I will cherish them.”
The Elmore Group had previously sought funding from the city of San Antonio for a new stadium, but the city council balked at the notion of funding and building a proposed $75 million stadium, the San Antonio Current reported in Sep. 2016.
It didn’t matter, as multiple cities vied to accommodate the Elmores. Amarillo won out over Wichita, Kansas, and Lubbock, Texas, according to the Amarillo Globe-News.
“We’re very confident it will be a success in Amarillo for two reasons,” Elmore told the Globe-News. “First, it’s the initial support we’ve seen, and we also feel like we’ve got a pretty good feel for what’s going on in a market this size and ways to attack that market.”
The Brewers have been affiliated as a minor league baseball team since 1978, save a three-year hiatus from 2000-2003 when the club relocated to Provo, Utah, becoming affiliated with the then-Anaheim Angels (the club later went on to move to Orem and become known as the Owlz). Elmore purchased the franchise in 1999, then in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, and with a Toronto Blue Jays affiliation. The Brewers at once affiliated with Elmore’s franchise, and he moved a professional team back to Helena in 2002.
The Elmore-owned teams’ relocations await approval by the Pioneer Baseball League, the Texas League, the Pacific Coast League, the President of Minor League Baseball and the review of Baseball Office of the Commissioner.
The City of Helena owns Kindrick Legion Field. The city and Brewers’ 10-year lease agreement ends in 2018, when the club is scheduled to leave.
Amy Teegarden, the director of parks and recreation in Helena, said Elmore gave her department a courtesy notice on Tuesday ahead of the club’s news. She said the city commission, park board and the community in general will determine if pursuing another professional baseball team as a tenant in Kindrick is the best use of the city’s resources.
The city would need to meet potential tenants’ needs, whether that be stadium renovation, agreement stipulations or other bartering points.
“We have a lot of community needs for park and recreations, and that would be the decision is how a future team and those requirements would fit in with those broader community needs,” Teegarden said. “There’s some advantages to having a minor league team, but those would be weighed. We’ve had a good relationship with the Brewers. We hate to see that leave. We understand the reasoning. It’s a bigger market and it is a business.”
The Brewers have drawn the lowest attendance in the Pioneer League as far back 2005, the first year online records were kept by the league. Last season, the Brewers drew 37,624.
Kindrick Legion Field was built in 1932 and has undergone renovations throughout the years. The field currently hosts the Brewers and local American Legion baseball teams, the Senators and Reps.
The Brewers have won the Pioneer League title four times (1984, 1995, 1996 and 2010). Professional baseball in Helena began when the Philadelphia Phillies contracted the Helena Phillies from 1978-83. The club became independent for a season before the Milwaukee Brewers came in. Helena has been affiliated with the major league club from 1985-2000 and then 2003 until now.
Whether professional baseball returns to Helena beyond 2018 remains to be seen.
“Despite the news, we still have two more seasons in Helena and it will be business as usual. We will continue to give our fans and sponsors a great value and experience,” Helena Brewers President and General Manager Paul Fetz said in the release. “We look forward to continuing to create lasting memories for our fans and the city of Helena and hopefully bring home another Pioneer League championship.”