February 12, 2005
Ball rolling for clubCalgary's NL franchise secures new owner
By CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun
After months of inactivity and silence, Calgary's Northern League baseball club is rounding third and heading for home. Winnipeg's Jeff Gidney became the club's new owner yesterday and will be introduced at a Wednesday news conference.
Yesterday via conference call, the new boss said he's looking forward to getting the team going and turning it into a solid franchise, even with just a few months until the season begins.
"We are a bit behind in our marketing but the league has been absolutely co-operative in giving us the assistance that we need to ramp up to speed and get to where we should be at this time," said Gidney, a retailer who owns the largest blue spruce farm in Manitoba and is also involved with Jazz Golf Equipment Inc.
"We still believe we're going to have a heck of a great product on the field this year and we've narrowed down a short list on a coach.
"Getting a coach with Northern League experience is our number one priority and we're hoping we can find someone with that experience and, if not, we'll look for someone who understands the Northern League philosophy."
Naturally, that's the next job for Gidney, who knows how successful the Winnipeg Goldeyes are in the Northern League.
"The Northern League appealed to me as a business proposition," said Gidney.
Clearly, he's been doing his homework as the league dealt with the previous owners, who had their franchise rights thrown out the door in December because they weren't moving the club forward for 2005.
And Gidney's work ethic impressed league commissioner Mike Stone, who came to an undisclosed settlement with the Japanese ownership group originally awarded the Calgary team April 3, 2004.
"When we had interviews in Chicago, Jeff stood out for me with his enthusiasm. He's a real go-getter," said Stone.
"He did a lot of due diligence and showed up with a complete marketing plan in hand and nobody else did that."
While he's prepared to put some cash into Foothills Stadium, Gidney plans on lobbying City Hall for a new downtown facility.
"We are hoping, in a short period of time after we establish ourselves in Calgary, to sit down with Mayor David Bronconnier and encourage him to put a summer stadium in downtown Calgary. I believe that's very important."
With Gidney at the helm, the club finally is able to sign players and begin building its roster for the season.
The team also will announce a name and its colours at Wednesday's press conference.
Calgary will play in the league's North Division with expansion Edmonton, Fargo-Moorhead, Sioux City, Sioux Falls and Winnipeg.
The team opens the 2005 campaign May 20 at Sioux City. The club's home opener at Foothills Stadium is Friday, May 27 against Joliet.