As much of the country gets back into warm weather (briefly), many including myself will get the itch to watch sports outside. This month, baseball gets going. Triple-A features a pair of new ballparks, one of them much awaited in Charlotte. After playing in another state for a few decades, the Knights come back to the Queen City and into a beautiful ballpark that is highlighted by an impressive skyline view in the outfield. While the stadium name follows an annoying trend of banks putting their stamp on multiple facilities, Charlotte’s new home looks to rank as a top destination for ballpark aficionados. In the PCL, the failed suburban San Diego ballpark in Escondido resulted in the Tucson franchise staying put an extra year until El Paso ended up getting a new ballpark and thus the team. That team will be known as the Chihuahuas, but will remain in Tucson for one more series as Southwest University Park is not ready yet (this is what happens when you rush it and try to get a project done in less than a year). El Paso will spend much of April on the road, along with playing a home set at Kino Memorial Stadium. After that, however, Kino is off The List.
In other baseball news, kudos to the West Michigan Whitecaps, where they were able to get their ballpark back open after a fire destroyed part of First Third Ballpark in the winter. In MLB, Detroit, Tampa Bay and Colorado unveiled some improvements, with the latter adding a great spot in upper right-field with The Rooftop. They had seats to give up with an over 50,000 seat capacity, so utilizing this space works quite well. Dodger Stadium improvements continue and Wrigley Field celebrates its 100th birthday as their seems to be no end in the Ricketts-Wrigleyville fight.
Soccer also returns and while MLS continues to hand franchises out like cookies, it is quiet this season with no expansion or new stadiums. Down a level to the NASL, the Indy Eleven started with a sold-out crowd in Carroll Stadium, on the campus of IUPUI. The other new team this year is in Ottawa, where the Fury will share the renovated TD Place Stadium with the Redblacks, who return to the CFL this summer. Four teams will be new to the USL-Pro this season, however, none of them make The List for right now. I say right now, because the Sacramento Republic are planning an 8,000 seat stadium in the Cal Expo. That won’t be completed until June and I would rather see them play a game there first before adding it. In the meantime, games will be played in Hughes Stadium, on the campus of Sacramento City College. Other new teams are Arizona, Oklahoma City and Orange County, while VSI Tampa and Phoenix have folded.