HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Huntington Mayor Steve Williams wouldn't say his plans for a baseball stadium in his city were in the infant stages. He wouldn't even call them the prenatal stages.
"I think it's a little dream in the corner of my eye," he said Wednesday.
But Williams is starting to beat the drum for such a facility in his city limits, one that would house not only Marshall University baseball, but a minor-league affiliate and possible championship tournaments as well.
"We absolutely need and deserve to have baseball back in Huntington," Williams said. "Any city that has an environment where they can take their families and be able to do things, they have baseball. There's absolutely no reason why we shouldn't have it."
Minor league baseball has been absent from the city since the independent Huntington Rail Kings played in there in 1998. The Marshall University baseball team played its home games this past season at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston and Epling Stadium in Beckley, venues that are about an hour drive and two-hour drive, respectively, from campus.
Williams said he met for about two and a half hours earlier this spring with West Virginia University Athletic Director Oliver Luck, who told him about Morgantown and WVU's attempts to build a baseball stadium and the Tax Incremental Financing plan (TIF) that would be used to fund it. The TIF would use future gains in taxes, be it property or sales taxes, to subsidize community improvement projects.
If successful, Williams said a baseball stadium would give the city more opportunities to host events. He looks at Indianapolis as an example of a city that developed itself to welcome major sporting events.
"We're not an Indianapolis by any means," Williams said, "but we can take that model and become a destination point for youth leagues and high school championships, and for that matter, even NCAA collegiate regional championships."
Williams knows the city won't be able to take on the project alone. Its success will depend on a partnership between the city, Marshall University and a private developer. He feels he has a great partner in Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick. The two were teammates on the Marshall football team, Hamrick a linebacker and Williams a tight end, and have been friends ever since.