D.G. Elmore is back in control of the Bakersfield Blaze of the California League, reclaiming ownership of the franchise he operated for seven years after a bid by new local ownership to build a new ballpark for the club crumbled last week.
New owners Chad Voiland and Gene Hathaway bought the Blaze from Elmore for an undisclosed price in March 2012, with the intention of building a new stadium to replace 72-year-old Sam Lynn Ballpark. The pair managed to raise just $18 million of the $30 million they said they needed for the project, however, and called off the project last week.
Elmore said the new owners failed to make a loan payment that was due Oct. 1, reverting control of the franchise back to him. Voiland and Hathaway said they simply exercised an option in the purchase contract to sell the team back to Elmore at the original sales price if they could not secure a new home for the team. Either way, the team is back under Elmore’s control, with its future in the city looking doubtful.
“I had every hope that Gene and Chad would build a great new ballpark for the Bakersfield community,” Elmore said in a press release.
Where the franchise goes from here is uncertain. Continuing at Sam Lynn Ballpark is not an option, California League president Charlie Blaney has said, as the stadium no longer meets Minor League Baseball facility standards. Blaney told the Bakersfield Californian that he will search for other markets within the league footprint, but a shortage of public money to use for local construction projects in California makes finding a location a challenge.
Last week, Blaney said the league has not considered revisiting a previous plan to shift to franchises to the high Class A Carolina League.