PEORIA, Ill. — Mayors around the United States are showing support for Minor League Baseball as Major League Baseball leaders threaten to cut over 25% of all Minor League teams.
Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis joined many other central Illinois mayors in supporting a committee of mayors created to raise their voices against MLB’s proposal.
“The U.S. Conference of Mayors, of which we’re a member, have their annual winter conference in D.C. every year. I couldn’t go this year, but one of the committees was focused on making sure the Conference of Mayors weighs in with pro baseball that this would have a serious impact on our communities. It asked mayors that have teams in their communities to join the committee and to send a letter of support, which I did. I also encouraged all area mayors to participate as well,” Ardis said.
Ardis says the Peoria Chiefs are incredibly important to all of central Illinois.
“They’re very involved civically. They contribute to a number of not-for-profits here. They underwrite a ton of tickets throughout the year that enables different organizations to bring their groups in,” Ardis said.
Although the Chiefs are not supposed to be cut in the next contract between the Major and Minor Leagues, teams nearby like the Quad Cities River Bandits are.
“My concern is even if they started with a smaller number, once they start that process, it gives them an idea that that’s something for them to do. We want to stop it at the beginning. It’s really crazy to think professional baseball would make a move like this against their farm teams. It would have an impact on their ability to cultivate players from within their organizations,” Ardis said.
Ardis hopes with enough support against the MLB’s proposal, no smaller communities would have to be affected.
“Peoria’s pretty lucky because we’ve had megastars that have made it to pros that have come through Peoria,” Ardis said.
“It’s that family type of entertainment that you can take the kids down, it’s not really expensive. Have a hot dog and some popcorn, and see some kids who might make it to pros,” Ardis added.
Ardis says Dozer Park is a huge asset to the area, especially being downtown and near the Warehouse District.
“It’s definitely one of those quality of life venues we have here in addition to the Civic Center. It’s great family-type entertainment. Very reasonably priced and it brings more vibrancy to our downtown and Warehouse District,” Ardis said.
For over a decade, Ardis has been saying he wants to create a sort of ‘Wrigleyville’ atmosphere around Dozer Park. With the recent developments coming to the Warehouse District, that dream is close to becoming a reality.
Ardis says the price of games and items you can buy in the ballpark makes Chiefs games so much fun for families.
“Unfortunately, it’s hard for the average family to go to Chicago or St. Louis to see a Major League game when tickets are $50 apiece and hot-dogs are $5. It’s really expensive. It’s a good opportunity to see nice quality baseball in a family atmosphere, and be home 10-15 minutes afterward,” Ardis said.