City of Springfield May Purchase Hammons Field

City of Springfield May Purchase Hammons Field

The City of Springfield could become the new owners of Hammons Field.

The city council will need to vote on a $12 million-dollar purchase agreement.

A vote on the purchase could come as soon as February 14.

The purchase would include the stadium and two parking lots.

A second part of the purchase would be a long-term lease agreement with the Springfield Cardinals through 2038.

The current owner of the stadium is the John Q. Hammons Charitable Trust.

Here is the news release from the City of Springfield:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The City of Springfield could become the new owners of Hammons Field if City Council votes to approve a combination $12 million purchase agreement expected to come before them Feb. 6.

The purchase agreement would include the stadium and a parking lot directly across Trafficway south of the stadium and the one to the west of the stadium, not currently marked for parking. Unrestricted savings from the General Fund and monies earmarked for “Economic Vitality” from the Level Property Tax Fund would be used to fund the investment. The current owner of the stadium is The John Q. Hammons Charitable Trust.

A second measure before Council will include a long-term lease agreement with the Springfield Cardinals, Double-A affiliate of the 11-time Major League Baseball (MLB) World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. The lease agreement going through 2038 would ensure the 2012 Texas League Champion Springfield Cardinals remain in Springfield where they have played since the affiliate’s founding in 2005. Also included in the agreement is a commitment to fund $4 million in stadium improvements related to meeting Major League Baseball requirements, and enhancing the player and spectator experience. 

Documents:

“We have the Double-A franchise of the most popular Major League team in the Midwest,” said Springfield Mayor Ken McClure. “They add a vibrancy, excitement and level of entertainment as well as foster a great degree of community pride. Having a major league club own its minor league affiliate is very rare. We plan to be the home to the Springfield Cardinals for generations to come.”

“The St. Louis Cardinals have long enjoyed a strong relationship with the Springfield community, and we look forward to continuing it for many years to come,” stated Cardinals’ President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak. “The Cardinals organization shares a special connection with Springfield and Southwest Missouri, and we cherish the enthusiastic support you have provided our team and players for nearly two decades.”

Hammons Field is also home to the Missouri State University Baseball Bears, who played their first game in 2004 in the opening day of Hammons Field. Hammons Field has hosted five Missouri Valley Conference Tournaments and the 2015 NCAA Division I Regional (won by Missouri State). Missouri State will continue to play its home games at Hammons Field under the provisions of their lease. 

Hammons Field opened in 2004 on the corner of Sherman Avenue and Trafficway Boulevard as the centerpiece of a major downtown development project. The investments along the Jordan Valley Corridor in the 1990s and early 2000s have changed the landscape of Springfield’s downtown and ushered in a new era of revitalization. A part of Vision 2020, the community’s comprehensive planning process, enhancements also included the addition of Jordan Valley Park and Jordan Valley Ice Park. The Park is a green oasis at 635 E. Trafficway, between the Ice Park and Hammons Field. Once a blighted industrial area, the 15-acre park opened in 2002 with a mix of open plazas, rolling hills, play features, picnic areas, walking paths and the tumbling Ozarks Stream and Fountain.

The stadium has a seating capacity of 6,750. It is unique due to its baseball specific outbuildings. The stadium currently has two large buildings just outside the right-field walls. The larger of the two serves as a fully furnished indoor practice facility complete with Astroturf, batting cages, and a small diamond for drills. The smaller building serves as administration, including general manager offices, as well as housing Springfield Cardinals and Missouri State University Baseball Bears clubhouses, a cardio workout facility, and the physical trainer’s office. Hammons Field also boasts one of the largest high-definition video boards in Minor League Baseball.

The City issued bonds in 2002 in order to lend the late Springfield developer/philanthropist John Q. Hammons the money to construct Hammons Field on land the City acquired. The City’s redevelopment agreement with Hammons required him to make an annual rent payment in the amount equal to the City’s annual bond payment.

The idea was that once the bonds were paid off, the City would sell him the stadium and a portion of the land under it for $1. The redevelopment agreement also required the City to provide Hammons with a 50-year ground lease on the remaining portion of the land under the stadium. 

Under the bankruptcy plan, the court ordered that the bonds be paid off and that the John Q. Hammons Charitable Trust (a new trust created to honor the legacy of the benevolent hotelier) be required to acquire the stadium in order to sell it. Once the bonds were paid off, it became clear during discussions that the community would benefit the greatest if the City eventually became owner of the stadium.

What the City is specifically seeking to purchase is the charitable trust’s rights to obtain the 50-year ground lease and its right to purchase the stadium and part of the land under the stadium. Hammons Field is also the last thing pending in the City’s involvement in the Hammons’ bankruptcy. A separate settlement agreement resolves a disagreement between the Cardinals and Georgia-based Atrium Hospitality – held by JD Holdings LLC and owner-investor Jonathan Eilian.

The Springfield Cardinals compete as a member of the Texas League’s North Division. The Cardinals began play in 2005, winning three Texas League North 1st Half Division titles, two Texas League North 2nd Half Division titles, two Texas League North championships and one Texas League championship (2012).

Through the 2022 season, a total of 126 former Springfield Cardinals have gone on to make their Major League debut with St. Louis with an additional 30-plus others debuting with different MLB teams. 

The lease agreement with the Cardinals has been structured to ensure the stadium is paying for itself and for the improvements and maintenance required by Major League Baseball. Part of the team’s rent will be split between operating and capital funds. The Cardinals have an incentive to keep costs low, because any revenue left over at the end of the year goes into a fund for capital improvements. The City will create an initial $4 million dollar capital improvement fund to make the immediate Major League Baseball mandated improvements that address player health and safety and spectator experience. After that, the agreement is expected to cover the operation costs and for future improvements and maintenance. 

What is the deal?

Stadium and parking lots – $12 million

Commitment to bring stadium up to MLB standards, enhance spectator experience – $4 million

Keeping the Springfield Cardinals in Springfield – Priceless 

“The Springfield Cardinals offer great entertainment and are a source of pride for fans in the region, and we’re happy to see Mayor McClure and the city council consider this step to ensure Springfield remains the Cardinals’ home for years to come,” Gov. Mike Parson said. “The proposed investment is not only a win for sports fans but means economic opportunity for businesses and people in southwest Missouri.”

History

Springfield, Missouri, has hosted professional baseball teams since as early as 1905, when the Springfield Highlanders began play. For nearly 30 years, the team was variously called the Highlanders, Jobbers, and Merchants. There were several years when no team existed at all.

The original White City Park was built in 1901 on Boonville, near West Lynn Street and North Campbell, but caught fire and was rebuilt in 1921. In its heyday, the original Springfield Cardinals were the kings of the Western Association in the same way that they are consistently atop the Texas League today. The Cardinals would serve Springfield until 1942 when World War II came. Some famed future MLB All-Stars of Major League Baseball came through this ballpark including a future Hall of Famer.

In 1931, the St. Louis Cardinals purchased a minor league team, renamed it the Cardinals, and relocated it in Springfield. That year, the team won the first of several Western Association titles. With a front office led by future Hall of Famer Branch Rickey, Springfield also went to the playoffs in 1931, 1932, 1934, 1935, 1937, 1938, 1939, and 1941, and won league titles in 1931, 1932, 1934, 1937, and 1939. 

Following World War II, St. Louis moved the team to St. Joseph, Missouri, where it remained until 1953. The City of Springfield saw a brief re-emergence of minor league baseball when the rival Chicago Cubs moved its affiliate to Springfield for one season taking the name Springfield Cubs, playing in Memorial Stadium in West Springfield.

Though there was a gap of 63 years, most in the Springfield and St. Louis organizations consider the current Cardinals the same group which existed in 1932. Many pieces of fan apparel actually say, “Springfield Cardinals circa 1932.” The deck on top of the Cardinals dugout also has the championship banners from the 1930s and 1940s.
 
 Springfield played host to several players that would go on to play in Major League Baseball. Stan Musial played 87 games in Springfield; other players to come through Springfield are Dizzy Dean and his brother Paul, Pepper Martin, and Joe Medwick.

Through the 2022 season, a total of 126 former Springfield Cardinals have gone on to make their Major League debut with St. Louis with an additional 30-plus others debuting with different Major League Baseball teams.

Recent stars are Matt Carpenter, Luke Voit (also a former Bear), Matt Adams, Jason Motte, Lance Lynn and 2013 NLCS MVP Michael Wacha.

We also have hosted rehab assignments of stars like Yadier Molina, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.

Other teams’ brightest stars have come through Hammons Field as prospects.  All-Star Players like Mike Trout, Salvador Perez, Nolan Arenado, Alex Bregman, Troy Tulowitzki and 2022 American League Rookie of the Year Julio Rodriguez.

Fun Facts:

The Springfield Cardinals have two mascots. Their first and main mascot is a brightly colored red bird named Louie. He has been a mascot for the team since its formation in 2005. He is the “little brother” of Fredbird, the mascot of Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals. Their second mascot is a fluffy dog named Fetch. He is a fluffy beagle received by Louie as a birthday gift on opening day in 2006. During home games they can be found entertaining fans by tossing T-shirts and taking photos. When the team is on the road, Louie and Fetch attend local events in the community. 

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For more information, contact Cora Scott, Director of Public Information & Civic Engagement, cscott@springfieldmo.gov or 417-380-3352.

For ongoing coverage and to view the video of the announcement, visit springfieldmo.gov/hammonsfield.