The Springfield Cardinals have new owners, after their parent club and their new owners announced the transaction May 1.
The St. Louis Cardinals sold their Double-A minor league club for an undisclosed amount to Diamond Baseball Holdings, an organization that owns and operates other minor league teams, including St. Louis’ Triple-A affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds. It also owns the Texas League’s Midland Rockhounds and Wichita Wind Surge.
Dan Reiter, the general manager of the Springfield Cardinals, made the announcement on Monday morning at the ball club’s training facilities, joined by Springfield Mayor Ken McClure and John Mozeliak, the general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.
“[Diamond Baseball Holdings] is going to lead us in innovation, they’re going to lead us in technology,” Reiter said at a press conference. “What they’re looking to do is to change the minor league landscape forever and I think they’re going to be able to do so many exciting things that we’re going to be able to be a part of.”
Reiter assured that the Springfield Cardinals would remain in Springfield, would remain the Cardinals and would remain the Double-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, despite the change in ownership. Reiter will remain general manager, and he said that staff and leadership will be retained.
“The team remains the same, the name remains the exact same, the logos remain the same, except for those few days that we are the Springfield Cashew Chickens,” Reiter joked, referencing the team’s new alternate identity, in which the team will suit up as the Cashew Chickens periodically throughout the season.
Sale mitigates risk for St. Louis Cardinals, in line with majority of minor league ownership
The ownership of the Springfield Cardinals by the St. Louis Cardinals was a rarity, as the majority of minor league baseball teams are independently owned, according to Minor League Baseball.
“When we think back to where the St. Louis Cardinals were in the late ’90s, one of our biggest fears was not being able to control our own destiny on where our players trained, how they trained,” Mozeliak said at the press conference. “So we started looking at making investments in minor league franchises.”
Mozeliak said it was the “perfect match,” but that Major League Baseball had since changed the playing field, and that contracts between the franchises have extended, effectively putting more liability on the franchise owner.
“When people talk about improving lighting, when people talk about improving playing facilities, these are all done in conjunction with making the sport better, making the environment better for players and of course, probably most importantly, making the fan experience improved,” Mozeliak said.
Mozeliak said the sale to Diamond Baseball Holdings will help make the fan experience better and continue to provide the team with “geographic protection.”
“It’s a win-win,” he said. “Today is not a sad day for the St. Louis Cardinals. Better fact, it’s a day where I take a lot of pride and I assure you that the St. Louis Cardinals will be in the Springfield market for many, many years to come.”
Team sale falls in wake of stadium deal
On Feb. 1, the City of Springfield announced it reached a $16 million deal to purchase and upgrade Hammons Field.
“2023, this is the year of big Springfield Cardinals news dropping,” Reiter said.
Along with paying $12 million for the properties, the city has committed to funding $4 million worth of improvements as part of the deal, and the Cardinals have agreed to extend their lease through 2038.
“The city’s purchase of Hammons Field, Major League Baseball’s increased very positive involvement in the minor leagues and the very long term commitment of the St. Louis Cardinals to Springfield indeed makes this a red letter day in our city,” McClure said at the press conference.
“Having Diamond Baseball be a key part of not only keeping that special relationship with the St. Louis Cardinals, but expanding upon it is exciting.”
Hammons Field is also home to the Missouri State Bears baseball team. The Cardinals’ former lease was set to expire in 2030, but the Cardinals held an option to opt out of the lease as early as January of 2025. Cardinals executives said the ballpark improvements are needed to bring the stadium into compliance with the standards Major League Baseball sets for its affiliated minor league stadiums.
A U.S. Bankruptcy Court ruling March 28 cleared the way for the city to purchase Hammons Field from the John Q. Hammons charitable trust. In court filings, attorneys for the charitable trust said money from the stadium sale will go toward preserving Hammons legacy through charitable endeavors.
Terms and conditions
Springfield will use unrestricted money from its general fund and revenue from the city’s level property tax to pay for the stadium purchase.
The Cardinals will pay $650,000 per year in rent, which General Manager Dan Reiter says is the highest rate for rent the team has ever had. He said unlike in other cities, the Springfield Cardinals won’t propose any sales tax additions or amendments to finance baseball stadium upgrades.
The city has been intrinsically tied to Hammons Field ever since it issued taxable bonds in 2002 to lend to Hammons and provided the land under the stadium. Hammons Field sits on two parcels of city land. The one that most of Hammons Field sits atop is owned by the city’s Public Building Corporation, which helps finance city projects. The other parcel, which includes parts of right field, some stadium seating, parking areas and entrance gates, is owned by the city. The ballpark sits across from Jordan Valley Park in an area targeted for revitalization in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Across the Texas League, from Amarillo to Corpus Christi, north to Tulsa and Little Rock, farther north to Wichita, cities own the stadiums their hometown clubs play in. The Springfield Cardinals join nine other Texas League teams who make their homes in municipally-owned stadiums. Only Riders Field, home of the Frisco Roughriders in Frisco, Texas, is a privately held stadium.
Matt Carpenter, Tommy Edman, Kolten Wong, Paul DeJong, Luke Voit, Dakota Hudson and the late Oscar Taveras are among the Springfield Cardinals who went on to make splashes in the major leagues. More than 6 million fans have attended Cardinals games in the past 18 years. Reiter said the Cardinals have also contributed $2.5 million to local charities and nonprofits.