The Advertiser-News, a weekly paper in Sussex County, has a follow-up article to the departure of the Sussex Skyhawks (a tip of the ol’ hat to Ballpark Biz). Those on the ballpark side of things are saying all the right things — hoping to get a team for 2011, considering independent and affiliated franchises, hoping local redevelopment and the ballpark can work hand-in-hand to make Skylands Park a destination for fans and families. But they have to say that now; they must do whatever they can to keep fans’ hopes up and their minds on baseball and the ballpark that now — and for the foreseeable future — sits dormant.
A team for 2011 would be possible, but it would almost have to be an independent — or even summer collegiate — league team. But the Skyhawks were an independent league team, playing in the only independent league in the area, and that relationship fell apart.
As for an affiliated club? My personal opinion is that’s just a smokescreen. I don’t see how that will work. For one thing, with a capacity of 4,200, the ballpark is too small for anything but Class A ball. Double-A ballparks seat at least 6,000, so expansion would be needed. The only options in Class A is the full-season South Atlantic League and the short-season New York-Penn League. While a northern New Jersey rival to the Lakewood BlueClaws would be nice and would give the BlueClaws and the Maryland teams, the Delmarva Shorebirds and Hagerstown Suns, another northern road trip, I don’t see the Sally League expanding north again after it shed its Lake County, Ohio, and Bowling Green, Kentucky, franchises to the Midwest League.
And the New York-Penn League has been done in Sussex County. The New Jersey Cardinals went west to State College, Pa., in 2006 for a new ballpark. If I recall, at the time part of the issue there was upgrades to Skylands Park — the team wanted the management group to pay for the upgrades, and management wanted the team to contribute. Unless those ballpark upgrades are made before a team signs a lease, I question the chances of an affiliated team returning.