Baseball fans, take note. Chances are looking good that TD Ameritrade Park will host an independent league team.
Two independent baseball leagues are now interested in bringing a team to the new downtown baseball stadium.
Clark Griffith, commissioner of the Northern League, said Thursday that he hopes to meet with the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority to discuss a deal.
After a visit to Omaha this week, Griffith, of Minneapolis, said he's so convinced that Omaha is the right place to add a ninth team to his league that he has “a check in my briefcase.”
MECA is already in talks with the American Association about bringing a team to Omaha's new TD Ameritrade Park, which is being built to host the College World Series and is scheduled to open next year.
Since the Omaha Royals decided to move from Rosenblatt Stadium to a new, smaller stadium in Sarpy County, MECA has been looking for a new baseball team to entertain downtown fans.
Roger Dixon, MECA's president and CEO, said Thursday that he doesn't want to hurt his relationship with the American Association by moving ahead with the Northern League.
He said he has asked the American Association to let him know if an Omaha team is a go by the first part of July. If the league misses the deadline or turns him down, he'd be open to discussing a deal with Griffith.
American Association representatives could not be reached for comment Thursday.
If either team were to end up at the stadium, neither would offer fans the level of play they might see from the Royals. In other words, don't expect to fight with a pro scout for a seat.
“They're no longer prospects,” Griffith joked about his players. “But they're experienced, veteran players.”
TD Ameritrade Park already has reached deals with two other tenants.
Creighton University's baseball team will play some of its games downtown in 2011, then play its full schedule of 20 to 25 home games at Ameritrade Park starting in 2012.
The United Football League has a two-year lease to play at the park. The team will play at Rosenblatt this fall and at TD Ameritrade starting in 2011.
Dixon said he had talked to the Northern League last November about bringing a baseball team to Omaha, “but they just kind of evaporated.”
The Northern League is widely considered the first successful modern independent league. It has a handful of teams in the Chicago suburbs, as well as Kansas City, Kan. (the T-Bones), Fargo (the RedHawks) and Winnipeg, Canada (the Goldeyes).
The American Association, also an independent league, already has a team in Lincoln (the Saltdogs).
Neither the Northern League nor the American Association have any connection to major-league teams.
No matter what happens, Dixon said, he's pleased that the two leagues are interested in playing at the stadium. “It's always nice to be wanted,” he said.
World-Herald staff writer Rob White contributed to this report.
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