"This is just the firs step of a very long road," explained Tony Johnston, chairman for the Champaign Minor League Exploratory committee. "I'm a baseball nut, so I'm very excited about it and I think it could happen, so I wouldn't be doing this if I wasn't optimistic about it."
Mayor Don Gerard brought up the idea when he was first elected. Johnston said he told the mayor that he had the same goal and would want tho help out in any way. The mayor appointed him to spear head the committee.
"He and I have had a lot of experience with baseball in the past and so I told him as he was running for mayor, said one of the things if you win one of the things I would like to see in Champaign is minor league baseball and he said me too." explained Johnston.
The group is made up of local business people, sport buffs, and anyone that wants to help see the dream become a reality. It is looking for more people from the community to join.
At the beginning of the meeting, Johnston said their first concern is a facility. Having a facility that has the possibility of multi-use for conventions, private meetings, and so forth would be the ideal.
"One of the things we're trying to figure out is where to put a stadium," said Johnston. "Things like success stories that other towns have had and maybe sight selection inside the city limits is what we're going to consider, so right now I don't have any pre-conceived ideas."
They are guessing if they wanted to do a top end facility it would cost $10 to $15 million or maybe as low as $5 for a smaller facility.
"There's a lot of financing things we can consider, investors would be one thing," said Johnston. " Maybe the city could provide some money as far as a TIFF district or even something like municipal bonds. I don't expect it to come out of tax revenue."
He said there's a large process to everything. They could try to get an existing team to move to town, or try to start a brand new team. Johnston said they're keeping all of their options open and thinking about everything they may be able to do.
"This is the very beginning and I want to stress that," explained Johnston. "These are all just ideas, it's an exploratory committee, at the end of this 12 to 14 months we hope to have a better idea of whether it can be done and if we are going to do it how it should be done."
In the early 1990's there was a team called the Champaign County Colts which played at the U of I.
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