It won’t be business as usual for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox in 2019 — but that may not affect restaurants, bars and retailers in the area near Security Service Stadium.
The Elmore Sports Group, owner of the Triple-A Sky Sox, announced Wednesday that the franchise will relocate to San Antonio for the 2019 season. San Antonio’s Double-A team, the Missions, will move to Amarillo, Texas. Moving to Colorado Springs will be the Short Season rookie-level team from Helena, Mont.
Elmore owns all three teams.
Paul Korney said he is “relieved” that another team will play at Security Service Field. Korney and his wife, Malorie, are owners of Cleats Bar & Grill on Barnes Road, a short walk from the stadium.
“The Sky Sox are part of why we chose that location,” said Korney, who also owns Cleats Bar & Grill in Rockrimmon. “It’s a real bonus to be close to the biggest sports franchise in town.”
The biggest difference for Colorado Springs baseball fans is that the Short Season team will have 38 home games while the Sky Sox played half of their 142-game schedule at Security Service Field.
Korney said that probably won’t affect his business much, however, even though he told the Business Journal in 2016 that Cleats receives a “20 to 30 percent boost on game days.”
“We do get a boost, but that’s during the middle of the season,” he said. “That doesn’t happen so much early in the year when the weather’s not as good and attendance isn’t as high. We just don’t get as much turnout for those early games and not as big an impact.”
Elmore Sports Group President D.G. Elmore said in a new release, “The Pioneer Baseball League schedule is a much better fit for this climate here, as the schedule begins in June and runs into early September, a time where fewer games will be impacted by weather and fans will be able to enjoy the ballgames throughout the summer months.”
When the weather is warmer and the crowds are big — like for special promotion nights — it makes a big difference at Cleats, he said.
“We get great turnout on fireworks nights and other big promotions,” Korney said. “We’ll keep doing promotions with the Sky Sox; we do the ticket program, where if you bring in your ticket from the game you get a free beer. We try to promote people going to the game and coming to us afterwards.
“That’s a part of our business model.”
The prime reason for the Sky Sox relocating is the altitude of Colorado Springs, as evaluating pitchers and having them maintain confidence while pitching at 6,035 feet has long been a problem.
The Sky Sox were the Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies for 22 years, until the Rockies dropped them in September 2014.
“For many years, it has become increasingly difficult to find a Major League Baseball team that is interested in Colorado Springs as a long-term home for their Triple-A club due to the weather and elevation, which make it hard to develop and evaluate players, particularly in the early spring months,” said Elmore. “Moving a short season club to Colorado Springs is a perfect fit, as we have tremendous fan support, particularly during those summer months, a beautiful ballpark that will be among the finest in the Pioneer Baseball League and a solution that is beneficial for Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball.”
Sky Sox Director of Public Relations Nick Dobreff said the team employs about 135 people on game day. The shortened season would affect income for many of them.
Another difference for fans is that the players they’ll watch in 2019 will be younger and less accomplished, often having just graduated high school before being selected in the pro draft.
Korney isn’t too concerned about that change.
“I’m a big baseball fan,” he said. “It’s just nice to have a team for the town, and so I can take my son to the games. On a personal level and a business level, having a team is good for me.”