- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 22, 2014

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) - Independent baseball is a step closer to moving to Joplin, after the city council approved a lease agreement for the stadium to be the home of a team that once played in El Paso, Texas.

The lease approved Tuesday requires the city to spend $4 million to upgrade Joe Becker Stadium, which would be the home of the El Paso Diablos. The council will consider a performance agreement at its meeting next month, The Joplin Globe reported (https://bit.ly/18LWpe7 ).

The city is negotiating with WLD Suarez Baseball, investors in the El Paso franchise from the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, which includes the Wichita Wingnuts and Kansas City T-Bones. The Suarez group is pledging to spend $5.3 million for other improvements as its part of the agreement.

“We think it can be a great member of our league. You’ve got some good ownership potential here,” league commissioner, Miles Wolff of Durham, N.C., told the council. He said Joplin is a good fit for the league, and “I think you’ll be pleased with what it can bring to your community.”

Before the vote, City Manager Mark Rohr told the council the Suarez group showed him financial statements of their business dealings and outlined the financing they would obtain.

“I was convinced by what I saw they are financially able” to meet their financial pledges, he said.

The Suarez group involves Oscar Suarez, a professional baseball agent; his son, Shawn Suarez, who has worked in minor league baseball; and Michael Wray, an Austin, Texas, real estate developer.

Chris Cotten, the city’s parks and recreation director, said no work will be done on the stadium before August because Missouri Southern State University’s baseball team and the Outlaws summer collegiate team will be playing there this spring and summer.


Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, https://www.joplinglobe.com

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