Friday, April 24, 2009

Minor league ballpark planned near Trinity River

By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News

A real estate and sports group has purchased a large development site on the banks of the Trinity River near downtown. The new owners of the 60-acre property on Industrial Boulevard say they hope to build a $500 million mixed-use project anchored by a minor league baseball park – set to open next year.

The team working on the project includes Oak Cliff developer Richard Seib and Reunion Sports Group LLC, a minor league baseball company headed by former Dallas congressman John Bryant and his partner Byron Pierce.

The new owners bought the property with the approval of lenders who recently had posted the land for foreclosure.

A large-scale apartment and retail development was previously planned for the site near Cadiz Street, but that deal fell through.

"We are very excited about the opportunity to develop this property," said Matt Holley, a local builder who is working with Seib on the Industrial development and his $200 million La Reunion Town Center project in Oak Cliff. "There is still a lot of planning to do.

"Our intention is for the ballpark to be up and operational in 2010."

The development group says it plans to do the project with private funding. The land has been purchased, but financing has yet to be arranged for much of the development.

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Download: Site plan for proposed minor league baseball stadium (.pdf)
Pierce said the plans for the ballpark are on the fast track with an opening set for next May.

"We think it's one of the best markets in the U.S. for a minor league baseball park," he said. "The movement for minor league baseball now is to come into the large metropolitan areas.

"Businesses are moving back into the downtown area, bringing young professionals and families," he said.

Reunion Sports Group
An artist's rendering of the proposed minor league baseball stadium.
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Besides the ballpark, the new owners envision a water park and hotel, 2,500 apartments, retail and restaurants. A pedestrian bridge and walkway will connect the project to the nearby Cedars DART rail station.

"They want the development to be a mixed-use entertainment district," Holley said.

The site benefits from its proximity to the Dallas Convention Center and the South Side on Lamar district, Holley said.

Seib and Bryant became interested in the Trinity development last year when they worked on a proposal for a new convention hotel. The convention hotel project – which faces approval next month by Dallas voters – is being headed by the city of Dallas and another developer, Matthews Southwest.

Seib said in a prepared statement "that to succeed, a convention hotel has to have vibrant adjacent area containing multiple entertainment venues and options, which is, in turn, made more successful by proximity to the convention hotel. That's what we are developing."

Earlier this month, Bryant and Pierce's Reunion Sports Group bought United League Baseball out of bankruptcy. The 3-year-old minor league has teams in Amarillo, Edinburg, Laredo, San Angelo, the Rio Grande Valley and Alexandria, La.

Pierce said Reunion has been involved in minor league baseball since the early 1990s and already has built three smaller baseball stadiums of about 5,000 to 6,000 seats.

"We will build the stadium in downtown Dallas independently, and everything else in the project will follow," Pierce said.

Nearby property owners say the complex would be a big plus for the area, which is slowly redeveloping from an old industrial district into new housing and other uses.

Jack Matthews, who redeveloped the landmark Sears Roebuck building on Lamar Street into loft apartments, says the entertainment project would fit well in the neighborhood.

"We'd be very happy if they are successful in what they want to do," he said.

The same area was previously considered as a site for the new Cowboys stadium that is being built in Arlington.