The New Haven Ravens, who play at legendary Yale Field, could become the fourth minor league sports team to leave the New Haven area in the last decade.
Earlier this week, Ravens principal owner Edward Massey handed over the reins of the team for a reported $8.5 million to a group headed by Drew Weber, a Massachusetts business man. Weber has stated his intention to relocate the team to Manchester, N.H., for the 2004 season.
Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland learned about the deal late Monday night.
“It would be a shame to lose them,” Rowland said. “Maybe we’ll get another team.”
Though Manchester mayor Robert Baines held a press conference announcing the sale Monday, the agreement is still contingent on the the approval of Yale University, the Eastern League and Major League Baseball.
Yale University owns Yale Field and leased it to the Ravens — the Toronto Blue Jays Double-A affiliate — through a nonprofit baseball foundation. The team currently reimburses Yale for extra taxes the university pays because of recent improvements made to the field.
The university would be forced to shoulder the taxes if no team was playing there. Should the relocation be approved, the Ravens would have to find a replacement team. A clause in the Raven’s lease states that New Haven must have a professional baseball team at Yale Field through 2019.
Ravens General Manager Adam Schierholz ’87 told Hartford-based WTIC-TV on Monday that the minor league club would spend the 2003 season at Yale field, a potential lame duck season.
“I guarantee you 100 percent, 1000 percent, for sure we’ll be in New Haven for the 2003 season,” Schierholz said.
In the last year, Schierholz has increased advertising revenue by 60 percent, but despite his best attempts, the Ravens have lost approximately $500,000 over the last three seasons.
In October, West Haven officials granted the team a $54,000 tax break in an attempt to make the the team turn enough of a profit to continue playing at the stadium. Yale Field is located in West Haven.
“We knew [the deal] was in the works,” said H. Richard Borer Jr., mayor of West Haven. “The team has been struggling.”
The Ravens do not have a strong fan base in the Yale student body.
“I spent my 11th birthday at a Raven’s game,” Al Powers ’04 said. “I’ve seen maybe six games over the years, but I don’t really follow them.”
The Ravens have been playing baseball at Yale Field since 1993.
“People have been playing baseball at Yale Field since the 1860s when Yale first had a team,” said Sam Rubin ’95, the longest-tenured staff member of the Ravens. “The Ravens are a significant part of that tradition.”
Rubin is currently compiling a book on the history of baseball in New Haven. The entire last chapter of his book is dedicated to the Ravens.
“I’ve been involved with the Ravens for 10 years, but there’s a certain fan in me too who’s disappointed to hear that we may be losing this team,” Rubin said. “It’s like the saying goes — you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
Though Weber has advertised his intention to move the club to Manchester, the relocation must be approved by the Boston Red Sox. Any affiliated team that wants to set up within 75 miles of Boston falls under the territorial jurisdiction of the Red Sox. Manchester is 50 miles from Boston.
–The Associated Press
contributed to this story.