Morgantown not bidding on prep baseball state tournament

File photo
Monogalia County Ballpark in Morgantown.

Morgantown has decided not to submit a bid to host the state baseball tournament, leaving Charleston and Beckley as the only cities vying for a four-year contract with the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission.

The deadline for submitting bid proposals was 4 p.m. Thursday. The SSAC Board of Directors is expected to vote on the matter during its meeting on Wednesday.

Morgantown was one of five cities with facilities deemed capable of hosting the tournament, and earlier this year the SSAC sent letters to those five cities to gauge their interest in staging the event beginning in 2018. The others were Bluefield and Princeton.

With the new 2,500-seat Monongalia County Ballpark just outside town, Morgantown was looked upon as a serious contender to wrest the state tournament from Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, which has hosted the event since its opening in 2005. Before that, the state tournament was held for several decades at Watt Powell Park in Charleston.

However, conflicts with two of Mon County Ballpark’s tenants — the West Virginia University baseball team and the West Virginia Black Bears of the New York-Penn short-season Class A league — made submitting a bid impossible.

“That’s exactly what it was,’’ said Susan Riddle, executive director of the Greater Morgantown Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We got all the parties gathered around the table with all the information, and we all did our due diligence and found out that due to scheduling conflicts and prior commitments, there was no way we could begin to accommodate everyone’s calendar requirements.’’

The state tournament, which ran from June 1-3 this year, was held the same weekend as the NCAA baseball postseason regionals, which WVU was part of this season for the first time since 1996. The Mountaineers, in fact, nearly got the chance to host, being seeded second in the regional that ultimately was hosted by Wake Forest and played in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Riddle said one of her group’s first discussions involved the possibility of moving the dates of the state tournament so that it didn’t conflict with the NCAA regionals or the Black Bears’ season (which began June 19 this year).

“First and foremost,’’ she said, “the WVSSAC could not change its dates. WVU’s calendar had requirements and the Black Bears had requirements. They were all taken into consideration.

“We look into every event we can bid on and attract to our area as an opportunity, and look at each one as a clear canvas. We do our homework and see what we need to have in place, and unfortunately in this set of circumstances, we just weren’t able to meet the requirements to put in a bid for the event. We’re disappointed any time we’re not able to bid on an event.’’

Unlike most of its sports, the SSAC had never before had a contract bid upon for the state baseball tournament. The city selected as host next week will be awarded a four-year deal, with the final year containing an option to back out for either side. Next year’s state tournament dates are May 31-June 2.

With just two cities now bidding for the tournament — Power Park and Linda K. Epling Stadium in Beckley — SSAC executive director Bernie Dolan was asked what criteria will be important for the 10-member SSAC Board of Directors.

“First of all, availability of your stadium,’’ Dolan said, “and No. 2, the size of your stadium. Also, hotel space and parking.

“Obviously, one of them has an all-weather surface [Epling Stadium has artificial turf], so it doesn’t need the same amount of maintenance. Those are things we’ll look at.’’

Epling Stadium, which opened in 2010 and has seating for 2,500, is home of the West Virginia Miners of the Prospect League. Appalachian Power Park, the home base for the Class A South Atlantic League West Virginia Power, seats 4,500.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for cities to put in a bid even if you don’t win,’’ Dolan said, “because it’s good for the community to gather together to try and see what you can do together.’’

Both Dolan and Riddle didn’t rule out Morgantown putting in a bid for future state baseball tournament contracts.

“Who knows in four years what the NCAA is doing,’’ Dolan said. “It may go to a different format.’’

Mon County Ballpark, which opened in April 2015, can accommodate crowds up to 3,500 with standing-room areas.

“We will continue to look at every and all events on a statewide and regional basis, whatever that may be,’’ Riddle said. “We look forward to having the opportunity to work with the WVSSAC in the future. I’m glad West Virginia is in a situation where there’s more than one option or possibility for any of these events. It’s different than what we’ve had in the past.’’

Contact Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @RickRyanWV.

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