Prior to the start of the 2007 season, the Yankees moved their AAA operations from Columbus to Scranton. The Pennsylvania-based home of The Office allowed the Yanks to keep a closer eye on their top Minor League affiliate. Scranton is, after all, nearly 500 miles closer to New York than Columbus is.
The first few seasons were prosperous ones. The team’s new ownership group promised a new stadium and economic development for the town, and everyone loved seeing the Yankees. This year, though, things have changed for the worse. Attendance in the economically-depressed town has crashed, and the field at Lackawanna County Stadium has been plagued by flooding.
In Baseball America this week, Will Lingo looks at the uneasy relationship between the Yankees and Scranton (subscriber only). The team is committed to Scranton through 2010, but according to Lingo, the Yanks could look elsewhere when the current player development contract is up.
He writes of a slate of bad news for the Yanks and Scranton. The plans for a new ballpark lost political support and then economic support. Meanwhile, engineering studies suggested $13 million in repairs for the current park, and upgrades could be a few years away.
The Yankees, meanwhile, are mum on their plans. “Our plans are, we love the Scranton area,” Lonn Trost said. “The intent was hopefully a stadium will be built, we just haven’t gotten to it. We understand that things have changed, and we’re monitoring that situation, but we have all intentions of staying.”
In the end, the Yanks’ options are few. Only Rochester, Syracuse, and Lehigh Valley are remotely close to New York, and those cities come with their own problems. Scranton may be the best option among struggling International League cities.
(Hat tip to WasWatching for first noticing this story.)