By Bill McCaughey
For the Fort Bend Star
The Sugar Land Skeeters may lower their travel expenses in 2018, as the Atlantic League would like to add three more teams in Texas.
“We would like to have a Southwest Division in place by 2018. All of the Southwest Division teams would be located within a five to six-hour bus ride of Sugar Land,” Rick White, Commissioner of the Atlantic League, said.
The Atlantic League currently has teams in Bridgeport, Conn., Somerset, N.J., Central Islip, N.Y., New Britain, Conn., York, Pa., Lancaster, Pa., Waldorf, Md., and Sugar Land.
White would not divulge any specific Texas cities, but said, “We are in active discussions with five potential ownership groups and expect to meet our 2018 goal. We are also looking at expansion opportunities in the Northeast.”
The Skeeters are excited about the prospect of less travel.
“Expansion within the state would be great for Sugar Land,” said Bob Zlotnik, owner of the Skeeters. “I have been working closely with Rick on the expansion, but time will tell if it happens. The travel is tough on our players as every other week we are flying to the Northeast.”
When asked if he would be part of the ownership of the new teams, Zlotnik said, “It’s a possibility, but it’s not a requirement on my part.”
The soft deadline for expansion in the 2018 season would be April of next year. This would allow a one-year construction period for a stadium, and let the team begin play in April of 2018. While April 2017 may seem a long time off, working with ownership groups and municipalities on stadium issues is a lengthy process.
“It can take a while negotiating public-private partnerships,” Zlotnik said.
“When the expansion occurs, we expect to change our scheduling so that there are more division games,” White said. “Right now we play a balanced schedule with every team playing every other team 20 times per season, 10 home games and 10 away games. We would move to where each division team would only play two series with non-division teams, one home series and one away series. This will cut down on travel expenses as the Skeeters would only make four trips to the Northeast each season.”
Jay Miller, president of the Skeeters, is hoping expansion occurs.
“Travel is such a bear for our team, plus it is very expensive,” he said.
In the Atlantic League, the home team pays for the visiting teams hotel expenses. Due to the Skeeters being the only team outside of the Northeast region of the United States, the Skeeters also pay for the visiting team to fly to and from Sugar Land. If anyone in the Atlantic League is flying, the Skeeters are probably paying for it.