View looking into Hammons Field on a sunny day. Brick circular structure with five flags on pedestals.
The Springfield Cardinals have been a steady draw at Hammons Field since coming to Springfield in 2005. (Photo by Dean Curtis)

This story is part of an in-depth report on the status of Hammons Field and the future of the Cardinals Double-A franchise in Springfield.

Why is there a problem?

It is inevitable that Hammons Field will get a new owner, but just about everything else regarding the future of the ballpark remains uncertain. And with that uncertainty comes unhappy tenants. The Cardinals want this resolved yesterday so they can find out if the new owner will deliver on improvements the team wants in order to stay in Springfield. The city wants this resolved before the Cardinals bolt. But the Hammons Charitable Trust is holding out for the best possible deal while also recognizing that the property is a lot less valuable if it doesn’t have a professional baseball team attached to it. 

How important is it to fix the problem?

With 69 home games this season, Cardinals games bring people to downtown Springfield. About 4,700 fans on average attended games in 2019, the last normal season before this one. In 2020, when the pandemic canceled the Cardinals season, Dan Reiter, the team’s general manager, told KY3 that it was putting many of the team’s 150 part-time employees out of work and that the community would miss out on revenue from people who eat and drink downtown, including people who stay overnight. 

Plus, said a city spokeswoman: “Having the Cardinals franchise in Springfield has become integral to defining our quality of place and vibrancy as the state’s third largest city.”

When does this need to be addressed?

Pretty, pretty soon. The Cardinals, in their litigation and press releases, have expressed everything from exasperation to outright contempt about the current ownership situation. In court, a Cards attorney said if needed improvements to the ballpark aren’t underway before the start of next season, they could start looking elsewhere. 

Why don’t the Cardinals buy it?

The Springfield Cardinals are already an outlier in minor league baseball because the team is owned by its Major League parent club. St. Louis doesn’t seem to have any interest in adding a ballpark to its portfolio, if the Cardinals’ attorney is to be believed.

How much might it cost to buy it?

Well, it’s not on Zillow. But at least a few bookends have been established. An attorney for JQH Trust said in 2018 that Hammons Field was valued at about $19.6 million, and that the city had offered $6 million for it. And that’s not counting the costs of building a water park or outfield bar or anything else that the Cards have asked for to keep it Texas League elite. 

How would a public owner, like the city, finance it and operate it?

While the marriage of city land and Wild West developer was a unique partnership, the way that the Hammons Field project was partially financed — through city-issued bonds approved by voters — remains common when it comes to building new ballparks. City officials aren’t commenting on the potential purchase of the stadium, let alone how it would be financed, so it’s tough to say what options might be on the table. If you know, feel free to email cmatteson@sgfcitizen.org

Cory Matteson

Cory Matteson moved to Springfield in 2022 to join the team of Daily Citizen journalists and staff eager to launch a local news nonprofit. He returned to the Show-Me State nearly two decades after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Prior to arriving in Springfield, he worked as a reporter at the Lincoln Journal Star and Casper Star-Tribune. More by Cory Matteson