Northwest Arkansas Enters the Texas League

The drive to watch Tulsa Driller road games just got a bit shorter.

Springdale, Ark. city officials and owners of the Wichita Wranglers unveiled a proposed contract on Tuesday that would move the Kansas City Royals’ Double-A farm team to northwest Arkansas.

Springdale City Council members will meet during a work session Wednesday to discuss the 24-page contract and could approve the lease agreement within a week. Voters last month approved an extension of a 1 percent sales tax to issue $50 million in bonds for a 6,500-seat stadium.

Under the lease agreement, the Wranglers would pay $325,000 a year to start, with annual increases mirroring the consumer price index. If tickets sold exceed 300,000 over the course of the 70-game home season, the Wranglers would pay an additional 50 cents per extra ticket sold.

The contract assumes the Texas League squad will average 4,800 fans per game, or 336,000 per season. In addition, if the team’s utility charges exceed $200,000, the extra costs would be split between the team and the city.

In Wichita, Kan., the Wranglers are averaging just more than 2,700 per game this season — last in the Texas League. The rest of the Texas League is filled with near-capacity stadiums on most nights with teams in Springfield, Mo., and the Texas towns of Frisco and Corpus Christi each drawing more than 7,000 per home game.

Tulsa Drillers officials stated that attendance figures for 2006 are not calculated on a running basis but that the average home head count during the 2005 season was 4,500.

The initial term of the lease is 20 years and the Wranglers’ owners can renew the lease for two five-year terms. The lease is expected to produce $8.3 million for the city based on an assumed 2 percent rise in the price index per year.

Springdale Mayor Jerry Van Hoose and other city officials met with Rich Baseball Inc., the owners of the Wranglers, in Buffalo, N.Y., to finalize details of the deal over the weekend.

The Wranglers’ parent team, the Kansas City Royals, are owned by Bentonville, Ark. resident and former Wal-Mart CEO David Glass.

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