Meet the Riverhawks: Edmonton ballpark to host new team backed by ex-Oiler-led group
EDMONTON -- Baseball will be back at Re/Max Field, and when it returns, the downtown ballpark will feature a new team and a new league.
Former Edmonton Oiler Dr. Randy Gregg introduced the Edmonton Riverhawks at a news conference at the downtown ballpark on Tuesday morning.
The Riverhawks will play in the West Coast League (WCL), an amateur competition for out-of-season college players that began play in 2005.
"With the news that the Prospects were relocating to Spruce Grove to a new facility, the possibility of having no elite, competitive baseball at Re/Max Field in Edmonton was a distinct possibility," said Gregg.
"Our group wanted to ensure that Edmonton fans also had the opportunity to continue watching high-quality, entertaining baseball on an ongoing basis."
Edmonton's team will be Alberta's first in the league that is currently based in 12 cities spread across Washington and Oregon as well as British Columbia with squads in Victoria and Kelowna.
"We are humbled the league voted unanimously to add Edmonton to the list of franchises," said Gregg.
Expansion teams are also planned for the 2021 season for Kamloops and Nanaimo, B.C., bringing the total number of WCL teams to 15.
"To be able to see future stars in Major League Baseball when they play here in Edmonton as a summer collegiate player is something we are proud to bring to our community."
Gregg announced the Riverhawks had offered to help offset travel costs for visiting teams.
The season is scheduled to play out between June and August.
Travel, particularly cross-border travel, has been an issue for Edmonton baseball teams in the past.
Gregg's group pledged to help subsidize flights for the American and B.C.-based teams as part of its pitch to the WCL.
Gregg also announced the stadium's infield, lighting and scoreboard will all be upgraded ahead of the new team's debut.
Gregg's group secured a 10-year lease from the city to operate the park in May.
The ballpark had hosted the Edmonton Prospects of the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL), also a collegiate summer league, since 2012.
Prospects owner Pat Cassidy had sought to extend his team's lease there, but the city preferred the Gregg group's bid.
There was the potential for the two groups to share the stadium, but a deal couldn't be reached.
"I’m not a big believer in two clubs in the same league in the same venue," said Cassidy.
"There’s a lot of reasons why I don’t think that's going to work."
Last month, Cassidy confirmed his team was moving to a new Spruce Grove facility for the 2022 season.
"We feel confident that we actually saved Re/Max Field from the wrecking ball. Which is where the city wanted to go with it at one time," said Cassidy.
The WCBL says the Prospects will split home games between various stadiums for the 2021 season.
"They will split games among a few Edmonton area parks as well as a couple in each of the new Sylvan Lake Stadium, Okotoks and Lethbridge," WCBL commissioner Kevin Kvame wrote in an email to CTV News.
The WCBL cancelled its 2020 season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"We are obviously disappointed the WCL is invading our historic footprint," Kvame wrote.
The WCBL's operations can be traced back to 1931. It operated in the 2019 season with 12 teams across Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Kvame says his league is comparable quality to the WCL and that the WCBL emphasizes regional Alberta rivalries that will now not include Edmonton.
"We will be fine as a league. We want to emphasize our positive features rather than getting all negative."