UPDATE: We’re sorry to report that this deal has fallen through. Hope you had an enjoyable April Fool’s Day.
By Jack Ryder, Special Eye Correspondent
The Eye has learned that Mayor Ted Bettencourt will call a special meeting of the Peabody City Council ASAP to discuss a proposal by the Houston Astros to move their struggling Major League Baseball franchise to a new 43,000-seat baseball only stadium that would be built on the current site of the Peabody landfill off Farm Avenue.
Houston Astros owner Jim Crane would neither confirm nor deny that he was moving the National League team, but a source told the Houston Chronicle it was a “done deal,” and that “it’s all about the fine details and financing now, but it looks certain that the team will play north of Boston starting next season.”
Initial reports are that the team will be re-named “New England,” still play in the NL, and that the team will hold a contest with fans to choose a new nickname. The Astros recently moved to the American League, but according to MLB sources, Commissioner Bud Selig will ask the owners to approve a move switching the Astros back to the NL so they don’t compete directly with the Boston Red Sox.
The source told The Chronicle that the Astros were looking for an assurance of public funding by both Peabody and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Mayor Bettencourt is being asked to commit $100 million in taxpayer dollars toward the construction of the $750 million stadium (seen here in the artist rendering). The NL team is also reaching out to Peabody State Rep Leah Cole in an effort to get a $200 million commitment from the state, which would help fund a light rail transit connection from the Salem Commuter Rail station, with stops in Peabody Square.
“This would be an incredible boost to our redevelopment efforts for the downtown, provide hundreds of jobs, and a huge, lasting boost to our commercial tax base,” said a source at city hall, who wished to remain anonymous.
The Astros would also offer up naming rights for the new stadium, and according to sources, Peabody tech firm Analogic, billboard giant Total Outdoor Corp, and General Electric have already all expressed interest.
“We like the location for sure, since it’s near some pretty major Interstates,” the source told The Chronicle. “Mayor Bettencourt and the other Peabody officials have been very accommodating during the negotiations. Looks pretty good right now that this will get done.”
The struggling Astros, who finished with baseball’s worst record last season were also fourth worst in baseball when it came to attendance. TV ratings for their games were so poor, that the team’s sports network, Comcast SportsNet Houston, was forced to file for bankruptcy last September.
The Astros had just $186 million in revenue last season compared to almost $400 million for the Boston Red Sox.
If this becomes a reality, the Boston area would join New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles as the only cities to have AL and NL MLB teams.
More details to come tomorrow on April 2nd.