Fort Smith to have a team in a new baseball league set to begin play in May 2024

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,531 views 

The newly formed Mid America League has selected Fort Smith as one of six team locations expected to play ball in May 2024. A Fort Smith team owner or owner group has not yet been named, and Greg Kigar said public input will help select a team name.

Lawrence, Kan.-based National Sports Services and Ventura Sports Group created the Mid America League, which the two groups say is “a new premium baseball development league.”

League teams will initially be from Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. Teams will play a 68-game schedule beginning May 23 and ending in early August. The league will conduct playoffs to determine a champion. According to Mid America, the team selection is from regions with at least 100,000 population “with a solid business base, and will initially play in a combination of municipal and university facilities.”

“Teams will be owned by individual ownership groups with several markets offering opportunities for new stadium development in the future. League founders are already actively pursuing expansion markets for future seasons,” noted the Mid America press release.

Kigar, general manager for the Fort Smith team, said he is working with the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith for use of their baseball field. He said the league will work with the owner or a owners group to have a stadium ready by Mary 2026.

“That’s kind of a moving target,” Kigar said when asked about a stadium size. “It’s kind of a 1,500-seat stadium with some ancillary areas that we could use for events, packages … and help drive maybe some non baseball revenue. But you keep the stadium size manageable. You keep the prices manageable. It does no good to have $30 ticket prices or higher when you could get more people and more revenue with lower prices. So you get creative. You have some packages with merchandise, some ticket packages that have food with it, and some packages for businesses that they can use for their clients or their employees.”

Kigar, a Michigan native, said the goal is to have 800 to 1,000 tickets sold for each of the 34 home games. Sponsorships and other revenue sources – such as non-baseball use of the stadium in the off season – will determine how many tickets need to be sold to be financially viable.

As to a team name, Kigar said he’s already receiving a lot of ideas, but the league wants to get the public involved. He said a website should launch on Monday (Nov. 13) or soon after on which team name ideas can be submitted. He said no date has been set to select a name, but he wants to soon settle on a name and mascot.

“Hopefully it’s well before Christmas and so we can get some merch (merchandise) out there for the Christmas buying season,” he said.

The Fort Smith Board of Directors in August agreed to spend $75,000 to study the possible development of a baseball or multi-use stadium along the Arkansas River in downtown Fort Smith. The city is working with Fort Smith businessman and property owner Bennie Westphal to evaluate development of Westphal’s property on Riverfront Drive into a baseball or multi-use stadium complex with related amenities, a memo from Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman noted in August. Westphal also will pay up to $75,000 for the study, which is not to exceed $150,000.

The resolution authorizes a contract with Kansas-based Mammoth Sports Construction, LLC, which according to Dingman’s memo, has the expertise and experience in developing the type of master plan needed for the Fort Smith riverfront. Dingman told Talk Business & Politics on Thursday (Nov. 9) that the study has not yet begun.

City Administrator Carl Geffken said he has worked with Matt Perry with Lawrence, Kan.-based National Sports Services for several years. National Sports Services will be a subcontractor who will work with Mammoth, Perry said. They will focus on community engagement and how the facility can best be used.