Bring Tides to Tunis

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Norfolk, Va. is going all-out to land a Major League Baseball franchise.

With the MLB brass looking to deliver the Montreal Expos from their financial version of Hades, several cities throughout the United States, including &uot;Sin City&uot; – Las Vegas – along with the nation’s capital, Portland, Oregon, San Antoine, Texas and Monterrey, Mexico are courting the team to their respective locations.

None, that I have seen, have gone to the extremes used by the folks just across the state line. Norfolk is serious about enticing the Expos to make their new home in southeastern Virginia.

There’s even a fancy website ( for Norfolk’s effort. Here’s what I’ve learned thus far.

The Norfolk Baseball Company is currently in the process of a season ticket drive (even without a team). It’s really not a bad deal. For just 100 bucks, you can get your name in the hat for season tickets. If the Expos move to Norfolk, those already making a deposit will be among those who will be first considered for season tickets. If the team chooses another city, the money is fully refundable, so it’s a no lose situation.

It seems as some folks see that deal for really what it is as, according to the current figures, 4,000 people have plunked down their $100 deposit. Sixty others have expressed interest in leasing luxury boxes at the stadium.

The web site also listed several key reasons that Major League Baseball executives should move the Expos to Norfolk:

(1) The greater Norfolk area has the nation’s largest population for an area without a major league sports franchise.

(2) The nearest Major League team is four hours away.

(3) The Hampton Roads is in the top 20 markets for population. Norfolk also has one of America’s top 10 booming downtowns for residential growth and it was #1 in the nation for hotel occupancy growth during 2002. Hundreds of millions of dollars of public and private investment have resulted in an amazing renaissance.

(4) Tourism. Virginia ranks among the top 10 states in visitor spending. Tourists love the state’s attractions and almost all major airlines serve the Norfolk International airport. Listed among the popular visitor sights within a short drive from Norfolk are Historic Williamsburg, Busch Gardens and Historic Jamestown.

(5) The southeast Virginia area

boasts of the 18th largest number of television viewing households in the nation, beating out many markets that currently have a professional MLB team.

(6) Norfolk already has a fully-financed stadium through a healthy public/private partnership, and the public part has already been paid for. Norfolk’s Harbor Park can be expanded to begin major league play in April 2005. Then a brand new downtown facility will be built adjacent to Harbor Park in time for the 2007 season.

(7) Credible, high-profile baseball franchise owners endorse Hampton Roads as their next preferred relocation site. Currently, there is no MLB franchise located between Baltimore and Atlanta – making that area a prime target to land a major league baseball team. Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos said he doesn’t object to a MLB team locating in southeastern Virginia. He doesn’t see that team as a possible threat to cut into his attendance at Camden Yards

In a June 8 article, penned by Harry Minium, in the Virginian Pilot, he made reference to a Navy theme with the new team. Among the ideas were a battleship gray stadium with gun turrets located on the outfield wall that would shoot fireworks every time a player for the home team slapped a homerun (sure is better than those bozos fishing for a Barry Bonds roundtripper in San Francisco Bay at Pac Bell Park).

That got me to thinking. If the Expos move to Norfolk, then the Norfolk Tides – the Triple A minor league franchise of the New York Mets – will be forced to find a new home. MLB regulations will not allow a major and minor league team to share the same city, much less the same ballpark.

With that in mind, we here in financially strapped northeastern North Carolina should band together and pitch an idea to the Mets front office to move the Tides to Hertford County.

How ’bout the Tunis Tides? It will be a perfect fit for this tiny little hamlet tucked away on the Chowan River. We could pass a bond referendum, using the money to build a 15-20,000 seat stadium along River Road. There’s plenty of land.

We could get DOT to build a four-lane flyover of Winton from US 13/158 to the new ballpark. Of course we’ll need exits for the Courthouse and Tuscarora Greens.

Think of the economic boom it would be for the region. Winton and Cofield would explode with growth. Restaurants and motels would replace peanut fields and woods.

At the new ballpark, we could have promotional events, such as &uot;Herring Night&uot; (bring in a mess and get 50 percent off general admission) or &uot;Nucor Night&uot; (everytime a Tide player &uot;steels&uot; a base, Giff Daughtridge buys everyone a hot dog).

Hey, call me crazy if you must, but almost everyone associated with MLB thought Norfolk officials had gone off the deep end with their idea. If they can attract the Expos, we can go after the Tides.