Relocating minor league teams is a complicated matter, especially when it involves the construction of a new ballpark. So no move can be considered official until shovels hit the dirt and the moving trucks arrive.
The latest example of this truth might be playing out in Pueblo, Colo., whose status as the future home of the Orem Owlz appears to be in jeopardy. Just a little over a month ago, Pueblo officials were celebrating the news that Orem owner Jeff Katofsky had decided to move his team to Pueblo in 2020 and build a new ballpark and three hotels. Last night, however, local media began reporting that the deal might be off.
Depending on who you believe, Katofsky either has gotten cold feet or Pueblo officials have changed the terms of the deal. On Wednesday evening, the Pueblo Chieftian reported that the Owlz will not be coming to town after obtaining an email from a local housing director announcing that Katofsky had changed his mind.
“It is with disappointment that I have to report that I have received word that the owner of the Orem Owlz, Jeff Katofsky, has declined to move forward with his plans to develop three hotels and will not move his team to Pueblo (into a new to-be-built stadium),” Jerry Pacheco, director of the Pueblo Urban Renewal Authority, wrote to officials involved in the project, according to the Chieftain. “I have been contacted by local media and had to confirm that I did receive an email this morning that hinted at that fact.”
The Chieftain also reported that Pacheco had learned that Pueblo County had been officially notified through formal channels. “It will be up to Pueblo County to comment on the formal status of the project moving forward,” Pacheco wrote.
Sal Pace, a Pueblo County commissioner and proponent of the project, originally declined to comment on the Chieftain’s report but changed his mind after the article was published. In a text to a Chieftain reporter, he blamed local politics, not Katofsky, for why the deal is now in doubt.
“This project can happen. It also can die,” Pace wrote, according to the Chieftain. “There are (unnamed) people trying hard to kill it. These people are very committed to having no change or growth in Pueblo. Let’s be very clear, these people are very close to succeeding again in their objective to prevent anything new from coming to Pueblo. In the meantime I’m going to keep working to make Pueblo a better community.”
The plot took another twist late last night when Katofsky sat down for an interview with a Colorado television station to say that he has not made a decision to pull out of the deal. Rather, Pueblo officials are “moving the goalposts,” Katofsky told KOAA News, and that there are questions about land promised for development of his ballpark and hotels.
Pueblo County confirmed this with a statement of its own, announcing that the deal is not not off—there’s that double-negative again.
Simply put, and as often is the case, money is the complicating factor in Pueblo for what certainly is a large project. Stay tuned for further details.