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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Round Rock, TX, MLB City?

Round Rock, Texas, is throwing its hat in the ring for (presumably) relocating a struggling franchise. Round Rock City Manager Steve Norwood announced:
“This may seem like an ambitious plan, but I think Round Rock could be an ideal location for Major League Baseball,” Norwood said. “I just think it’s logical here. … You’ve got Miami with 400,000 people, Tampa is 325,000 [people], Oakland is 392,000 [people], Denver is 560,000—and here is Austin at 700,000.”
Courtesy Sportslogos.net
Interesting he mentioned two teams that have had very public struggles to get a serviceable stadium, and another which just got one and is now unloading players in what is being called a "bait and switch" for fans. Round Rock is officially 20 miles north of Austin, but the "Metroplex" blends together up the I-35 corridor as Williamson County has been one of the fastest growing counties in the United States since the Dot Com boom. Note the Williamson county does not include Austin proper, but suburbs only, and Travis County (to include Austin) is also busting at the seams with population.  Round Rock has hosted two of the most successful Minor League franchises, the Round Rock Express. In 2000, the original AA Round Rock Express were established after a purchase of the Jackson Generals by a group headed by Nolan Ryan. In 2005, the same Ryan group acquired a second franchise, the AAA Edmonton Trappers, moved them to Round Rock, and moved his AA franchise to Corpus Christi. The AA Express still owns the Top 4 single season attendance records in the Texas league (2001-4) pulling in 2/3 of 1M people each year. Since the AAA franchise moved in, they've been 1st or 2nd in Pacific Coast League Attendance every year since 2007, leading in 2011 and 2012. Enthusiasm must be tempered by limited near term expectation. Reid Ryan, Nolan's son and Round Rock Express president and CEO, who is in Nashville, Tenn., attending the winter baseball meetings, said that it could be difficult for Round Rock to score a Major League team. Reid Ryan stated:
“I think having visions like that are good...but with the rules it takes, unless there [are] some monumental shifts, I don’t see any new markets getting a Major League team in the near future. Baseball is not a sport that has a lot of changes.”
For another blog, it's interesting how an entire college conference landscape can shift in a matter of days, but major league baseball moves can be more decadal in nature. But Round Rock has put Major League Baseball on notice: "We're listening to opportunities and we have the market and baseball history to support it." And they started in AA, have been promoted to AAA, and are now just waiting for the call to the big show!

**Originally posted in Reading Between the Seams by this same author**

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