By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer
HAMILTON - Investors wanting to bring minor league baseball here are taking a road trip today with Hamilton officials to visit owners of the Frontier League franchise in Washington, Pa.
"This should give us a better grasp on what we need to do," said Terry Bridge, a partner in Butler County Entertainment LCC.
Bridge and other investors - including Barry Brown and Jim Bonaminio from Jungle's Jim's International Food Market - have six months to make deals for a stadium in order to play ball in the Frontier League in 2005. Contrary to published reports, the league has not set a Dec. 15 deadline for granting a 2005 Hamilton franchise, said Bill Lee, Frontier League president.
"We need to know by Opening Day 2004, about Memorial Day weekend, the teams that will be playing in 2005," said Lee, of Zanesville.
The partners continue to talk with city and county leaders about funding for a new 3,500-seat stadium near downtown Hamilton.
"The issue is where and how. You've got to get it funded, and that's not an easy chore," said Bridge, owner of Bridge's Sportswear. "If we break ground by June 1, then we should be OK."
Playing in Foundation Field south of downtown Hamilton, where the Florence Freedom averaged 538 per game last summer in its inaugural Frontier League season, is not an option, he said. The Freedom will play in a new Florence stadium next summer.
Bridge's group wants to raise about $1.5 million, half of which pays the franchise fee, he says.
"This is a very doable project. It's a good investment for the city, and for the investors," Bridge said.
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