The City of Round Rock, which describes itself as “The Sports Capital of Texas,” is looking for its own call-up to the major leagues.
The city is already the home of the Round Rock Express—the top attendance-drawing team in Minor League Baseball—and city leaders are now exploring the feasibility of attracting a Major League Baseball team to town.
On Dec. 4 at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Round Rock City Manager Steve Norwood announced to city business leaders the city’s desire to host a Major League Baseball franchise.
“This may seem like an ambitious plan, but I think Round Rock could be an ideal location for Major League Baseball,” Norwood said. “I just think it’s logical here. … You’ve got Miami with 400,000 people, Tampa is 325,000 [people], Oakland is 392,000 [people], Denver is 560,000—and here is Austin at 700,000.”
More than 595,000 people attended Round Rock Express games in 2012, according to Minor League Baseball attendance records. The Sacramento River Cats ranked second in attendance in 2012, drawing 586,090 people.
The idea that Round Rock could host a major professional sports franchise was first floated last year at a City Council planning retreat, Round Rock City Attorney Steve Sheets said.
“We were all talking about what we saw as a possibility for the future of Round Rock,” Sheets said. "Austin is the largest area in the country without a professional sports team. The Round Rock Express is one of the one or two most successful AAA Minor League Baseball teams in the entire country.
"It becomes rather obvious that if there was going to be an expansion team or a team was going to move, that the Austin area was going to be the most logical area in the country for that to occur.”
Sheets and Norwood both said that no official discussions have yet been held yet with Major League Baseball about relocation or expansion of a team to the Austin area.
Both said they believe, however, that Round Rock would be an ideal location for a professional franchise.
“It just seems logical to me that if you were going to talk about a team, professional baseball would be the one,” Sheets said. “There are teams that are not extremely successful in their current location, and it wouldn’t be surprising for them to consider relocating.”
Norwood said Round Rock’s central location and proximity to Austin makes it attractive to teams considering relocation.
“Eighty percent of the Texas population can get to Austin and Round Rock in three hours. You can’t say that about Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston,” Norwood said. “I think it is worth pushing the topic. Is it going to happen in the next two years? Of course not. But maybe in the next five to seven years.”
Reid Ryan, Round Rock Express president and CEO, who is in Nashville, Tenn., attending the winter baseball meetings, said that it could be difficult for Round Rock to score a Major League team.
“I think having visions like that are good,” Ryan said. “But with the rules it takes, unless there [are] some monumental shifts, I don’t see any new markets getting a Major League team in the near future. Baseball is not a sport that has a lot of changes.”
Norwood acknowledged that the idea would require the convergence of several sources to make it a reality.
“There are a lot of dots that would need to be connected,” he said. “From a site to financing assistance from the state, county and the city. I know corporate sponsors are important, but I think we are getting there. We have Dell, we’ve got Google, we’ve got Samsung and we’ve got Emerson—those are some pretty major companies—and I’m probably leaving off a dozen more.
“I have just got to start talking to some folks who know how to get these things done.”