Intercounty Baseball League wants City of Welland to OK three-year lease

The Intercounty Baseball League has moved into the on-deck circle and is waiting for its first turn at bat in Niagara.

Burlington Herd co-owner Ryan Harrison confirmed a team will begin playing out of Welland Stadium next spring if the league and municipality can agree to a lease.

Harrison, who toured the stadium on a fact-finding mission on behalf of the Herd and the eight-team league, would not say whether his team intends to relocate or that Niagara will be awarded an expansion franchise.

"I would rather not say at this point in time," he said. "But I will say that a team is coming to Welland as long as our lease is accepted."

Negotiations for a three-year deal to lease the 2,500-seat ballpark have been completed. A proposed lease will go to Welland city hall for a vote some time in August after it is reviewed by municipal staff, Harrison said.

The Intercounty Baseball League dates back to 1919, but a Welland-based team would mark its first venture into Niagara.

That said, the league has no plans to promote the team regionally by playing games in Niagara Falls and St. Catharines. George Taylor Field, formerly Community Park and one-time home of the St. Catharines Blue Jays and St. Catharines Stompers, has a seating capacity of 2,000 for baseball, and 1,500-seat Oakes Park is currently home to Niagara Falls Expos and Niagara Falls Junior Falcons senior teams.

"The team will play only at Welland Stadium, as we do not want to move from stadium to stadium in our 18-20 game home season," Harrison said.

Welland Stadium has been without baseball since the Niagara Stars left in 2003. Both the Rose City Thorns and Welland Chiefs senior teams in the Niagara District Baseball Association play the home half of their 24-game schedules there at the stadium, but neither charges admission.

The last fan-based team that depended on sponsorships and ticket sales was the Niagara Stars.