Plans were announced Monday for an 8,500-seat baseball stadium in Shakopee that a newly formed minor league team will call home, a proposal that was met with skepticism from some city officials.
The independent Metro Millers intend to put down roots on a site next to Canterbury Park with the hope of having "play ball!" called out for the first time in spring 2021.
In addition to baseball, the facility's operators envision hosting soccer, lacrosse, BMX racing and concerts.
"Our expected location in Shakopee has great transportation access, is near many other successful entertainment attractions and will be an invaluable community asset," said Steve Becher, chief management officer of Metro Millers Baseball LLC.
Becher added that the Millers name "has a long history of exciting baseball in the Twin Cities, and we're looking forward to bringing that back in the southwest metro."
The reconstituted Millers are using the state's MNvest crowdsourcing portal to raise up to $1.5 million and also are seeking investors through various fan-experience incentives.
Otherwise, major investors are being courted to cover the rest of the preliminary cost of $42 million needed to make the project more than just a field of dreams, according to state Rep. Brad Tabke, D-Shakopee, a former mayor of the city who is heading public relations for the stadium.
Tabke said the team is not seeking public money for the stadium.
Negotiations to buy all the necessary land are still underway, Tabke said. What the Millers organization does own are all the rights to the Millers name, images and history, he added. The team name was last revived for one season in 1994.
The Millers detailed the project in a community meeting last month, and it "received wonderful feedback," Tabke said.
Still on the team's to-do list is communicating with Shakopee officials, said Mayor Bill Mars and Assistant City Administrator Nate Burkett.
"We've not been formally or informally approached," Burkett said. "We don't have an opinion at this point [about the project's viability] because we don't have the information."
Burkett recommended that Millers officials should "come in and ask for a meeting with the planning and development team to see if it's viable in that space."
Mars expressed some doubts about the stadium's prospects for raising the necessary money, let alone meeting the goal of opening for the 2021 season.
"It needs a lot of work, at least from the funding aspect of it," Mars said. "It will be interesting to see how they progress over the next six months to a year as far as funding."
The mayor also said such a project needs to go through infrastructure and traffic studies.
From a marketing aspect, Mars said it appears the team's leadership is "harping on nostalgia. I'm not sure how that resonates with a new set of young fans."
On the team side of things, Tabke said that Elko, Minn., town ball managing legend Terry Fredrickson is in charge of baseball operations.
A goal for the team is to be a part of the American Association and revive the old-time rivalry between the Minneapolis Millers and the St. Paul Saints, Tabke said.
Saints General Manager Derek Sharrer said that "if it's good for baseball in the Twin Cities, we'd be supportive" of a new minor league team in the metro area.
Asked whether the region could support another pursuer of paying baseball fans, Sharrer said, "The Saints draw metrowide, and we've been very well supported over the years."
At the same time, even with the Saints in St. Paul, the Twins in Minneapolis and a college-age summer team starting up in Hudson, Wis., in 2021, "I'm not sure yet that the market is saturated with baseball. But if done right, [a team in Shakopee] could work."
The Millers were Minneapolis' American Association minor league franchise before the Twins brought Major League Baseball to the region in 1961.
Sharrer said that "rekindling the historic rivalry between the Millers and the Saints would be interesting, but that would require both teams be in the American Association.