MURFREESBORO — City leaders believe Murfreesboro offers an excellent home for a Double-A (AA) level baseball franchise. Organizers of just such a franchise agree and believe downtown, with its fast-changing landscape of new restaurants and small businesses, is the ideal location for a team in the expanding independent league American Association of Professional Baseball (AAPB) https://aabaseball.com/ an independent league and a partner league with Major League Baseball (MLB).
On Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, developers of the AA-franchise and the Commissioner of the American Association, Josh Schaub, presented a proposal to a Workshop meeting of the Murfreesboro City Council. Jason Rose, long-time communications executive and entrepreneur and Principal of Rose+Allyn Public & Online Relations based in Scottsdale, Arizona, outlined plans for the team and league expansion https://roseallynpr.com/ . Rose is creator and owner of the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships, America’s most attended polo event. He also owns Quixote Productions which produces shows in New York and across the country, including Americano!, Tiananmen, The Ghost of John McCain and Bar Mitzvah in Birmingham.
Murfreesboro is not the only City in Tennessee being eyed for an AAPB franchise. Tennessee would potentially have a team north of Nashville in Clarksville and south of Nashville with the AAPB, which partners with MLB. The AAPB currently features 12 teams in two divisions, predominately in the Midwest. The league includes larger cities—Chicago, Milwaukee and Kansas City, and mid-sized cities—Lincoln, Nebraska (292,657 pop.), Sioux City (85,617), Iowa and Sioux Falls, South Dakota (196,528). Murfreesboro’s 2021 population is 157,519.
Additionally, in July 2023, the American Association announced it will be part of the Baseball Champions League (BCL). BCL brings together champions from four professional baseball leagues: the American Association, the Colombian Professional Baseball League, the Mexican Baseball League, and the Cuban National Series. BCL is the first tournament among professional baseball leagues of different nations.
The American Association and its teams are not to be confused with the Nashville Sounds, a Minor League Baseball team of the International League and Triple-A (Pacific Coast League) affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. The Sounds play home games in First Tennessee Park in the Germantown neighborhood, where it led Minor League Baseball in total attendance (436,868) and single-game attendance (6,721). The Tennessee Smokies, in the Southern League, are a Double-A Minor League Baseball team based in Kodak, Tenn., a suburb of Knoxville. The Smokies are an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs and play in a stadium which seats up to 8,000 fans.
A non-binding Memorandum of Understanding outlines a potential timeline for professional baseball coming to Murfreesboro. Initiation of the project will include a feasibility study for development of a sports facility and an economic impact study outlining the benefits of the project.
If authorized by City Council, final agreements would be hammered out between the City and the franchise organizers before being presented to the City Council for final approval in future meetings.
While no specific location in Murfreesboro has been selected or finalized for a stadium, organizers believe a downtown location is ideal a home facility for the new, yet unnamed team. Additionally, a facility would host a variety of events that would bring a new vibrance to the downtown area.
Recent social media clamor about the possible stadium raised concerns from preservationists even before the proposal was presented to the City Council. City Council continues to be sensitive to the historic nature of downtown and its charm. Baseball and its long history provide an excellent platform to potential integrate Murfreesboro’s history into its ballpark design.
Franchise partners addressed those concerns Thursday.
“There is no scenario in which we would proceed with a new facility that would do anything but work with and compliment Cannonsburgh Village. We view its beautiful setting and buildings as a wonderful neighbor and asset to celebrate in conjunction with anything we may try to do in the downtown area,” said Jason Rose. “I applaud citizens stepping forward to express their love for Cannonsburgh. If it works with designers and engineers, we envision preserving and enhancing the Cannonsburgh Village history while bringing baseball to Historic Downtown.”
“Helping to revitalize downtown Murfreesboro with a professional baseball franchise and a stadium in the heart of the City would not only attract residents and visitors to the facility, it would enhance downtown’s identity and assist with redevelopment,” said Mayor Shane McFarland.
“Downtown Murfreesboro has the infrastructure to handle parking requirements for evening and weekend events,” said City Manager Craig Tindall. “Downtown is ideal for such an entertainment attraction as we seek to revitalize the historic downtown and surroundings to make downtown a vital centerpiece of the City.”
“The Historic Bottoms Study in 2017 recommended revitalizing the area west of Broad including enhanced arts and entertainment opportunities that has long had some vacant property and warehouses,” said Assistant City Manager Sam Huddleston. “This area has a history of housing workers who made a living off the railroad and supply industry in the post-Civil War era. It was a low-lying area and often flooded and where mostly African Americans lived. The area had to be elevated during urban renewal in the 1950s to construct Hwy 41 and Broad Street. We’re confident that plans for mixed-use development and possibly baseball will help kickstart redevelopment of the Historic Bottoms.”
Developers and City planners say it will take two to three years to develop and construct a new ballpark in Murfreesboro no matter where a minor league stadium is located and built. Organizers hope to attract 2,500 to 3,500 fans a night to watch 55 home games a season.
America’s pastime and a family-friendly entertainment venue in downtown Murfreesboro will be a place for the community and others from around the region to gather. With a heart-felt rendition of the National Anthem and a shout of “PLAY BALL,” Baseball Murfreesboro is a hugely exciting venture.