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Joplin Considers Bringing Professional Baseball to Town

JOPLIN, MO.--- The Joplin City Council met Monday night to talk about the future of Joe Becker Stadium. The plan that was proposed can transform Joplin, it involves introducing a pro-baseball team to the city.
Obviously there is a rich tradition and history here, Mickey Mantle played on the field. The stadium is a little jewel
JOPLIN, MO.--- The Joplin City Council met Monday night to talk about the future of Joe Becker Stadium. The plan that was proposed can transform Joplin, it involves introducing a pro-baseball team to the city.

Matt Labranch, executive vice president for the Swarez Group-- has been running the El Paso Double A Team for the last 8 years and has been looking for a home where El Paso's franchise could move. They think Joplin's Joe Becker Stadium is the perfect pick.

"I get excited about the possibilities of professional baseball here. Obviously there is a rich tradition and history here, Mickey Mantle played on the field. The stadium is a little jewel," said Matt Labranch, Vice President Swarez Group.

Labranch and his partners, Oscar and Shawn Swarez, and Michael Wray introduced their elaborate plan in front of the Joplin City Council Monday. All nine council members showed support, but there's still work to make it happen.

Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean calls it a home run for the city. "Very excited for Joplin. This is huge for Joplin, it brings family entertainment back to Joplin. It makes sure people can get out and say there is something to do in Joplin," says Colbert-Kean.

The Swarez Group now needs to have Joe Becker Stadium reach league standards for the American Association of Baseball. American Association is the top level of pro-baseball that is not affiliated, making it a very high level product. Labranch says he has no concerns of getting this plan finalized. He believes its perfect because Joplin is centrally located.

"I think when it's marketed correctly, like we plan to do, and be here and it's 50 games. More importantly, it's Joplin's team. We won't have a problem," said Labranch.

Not only will Joe Becker Stadium be used for professional baseball, but could be used year round with events and restaurants.

"We are going to utilize that plaza when it's completed to really make it an entertainment destination, and then we plan on utilizing the area and space for a lot of other entertainment events," said Labranch.

Once they get the information about the buildings, parking and retail, they will be able to make a better decision of where they want it to go. The mayor hopes to have final a decision by the end of this year and begin the season in 2015.



(story contributed by KODE/KSN, Joplin, Mo)
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