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St. George franchise ceases operation; lack of beer sales blamed

SHARE St. George franchise ceases operation; lack of beer sales blamed

ST. GEORGE — Hot Corner Baseball LLC, owners of the St. George RoadRunners Professional Baseball Club, Tuesday announced suspension of operations for the remainder of the 2010 Golden Baseball League season.

Will Joyce, CEO of Hot Corner Baseball, cited poor attendance and lack of support from the business community as key components to the financial losses that dictated this drastic step.

Hot Corner Baseball, together with the Golden Baseball League, have been actively seeking outside investors for over a month.

"The RoadRunners have simply run out of money," said Joyce. "We tried everything we could think of to encourage attendance, and nothing seemed to work.

"I know it was a controversial issue, but beer sales was critical to our success here, in terms of increasing attendance, increasing revenue, and as a factor in attracting necessary outside capital investment. It simply makes no sense to operate a minor league franchise without beer sales. Beer concessions comprise about 33 percent of total revenue stream for minor league baseball operations."

There was considerable initial interest from investors, Joyce said, but as talks progressed, the economic factors and track record of sagging community support were major issues in dissuading interested investors.

This is Joyce's first try at owning a baseball franchise. His ownership group purchased the team at the beginning of the 2010.

"Four ownership groups have tried to provide professional baseball to the greater St. George community, and all four have failed," he said. "When we purchased the franchise, we were optimistic that we would be able to establish a strategic partnership with the city, college, and business community.

"We felt strongly that the community would recognize the value of a professional baseball franchise, both to the local residents in terms of great family entertainment, where a family could come out to the ballpark and sit under the giant fans and misting system to cool off and watch professional baseball, and to the local business community as a tourist attraction and as a source of community pride Joyce said. Apparently, we were overly optimistic."

"It isn't a matter of population base," Joyce said. "There are over 130,000 local residents, and we were confident that we could draw an average of 1 percent per game (1,300) in attendance. That number would have provided the cushion we needed to keep the operation open. It didn't happen and I am heartbroken over the outcome. We have met so many great people here and have made so many friends that it makes this decision even more painful."

The RoadRunners, which were in last place of the North Division of the 10-team independent league, are not leaving town in the dead of night, though.

"We have lost our entire investment in the RoadRunners" Joyce said. "But we have an obligation to our employees and vendors and we are committed to doing what we can to meet those obligations."

Dixie State College has tentatively approved a proposal that all RoadRunners sponsors' in-stadium advertising will remain in place for the 2011 DSC baseball season.