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Bucs affiliate could land at new WVU stadium

| Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 7:42 p.m.

West Virginia University is set to open a new baseball stadium in 2015 -- and an era of professional baseball in Morgantown, W.Va.

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2014, and the stadium is expected to be shared by the Mountaineers and a New York-Penn League affiliate.

"The New York-Penn League is thrilled to announce its intent to bring a professional baseball franchise to Morgantown," New York-Penn League president Ben Hayes said during Tuesday's news conference at WVU Coliseum.

The prospect of a new stadium in Morgantown has spurred speculation that the Pirates would be interested in housing a Class A affiliate there.

The Pirates declined to comment.

After a six-year association with State College, the Pirates signed a two-year agreement in September with Jamestown.

Hayes said neither the Pirates' New York-Penn League affiliate -- Class A Jamestown (N.Y.) -- nor any other league team has applied to relocate to Morgantown.

Hayes said there are "three or four" affiliates that are candidates for relocation.

"I don't think it would be a good idea for people to speculate about Jamestown being the club," said Hayes, who wouldn't name the possible teams. "That's not necessarily going to happen."

There are 14 teams in the New York-Penn League for the 2013 season. Jamestown will play in the Pinckney Division with Auburn (Nationals), Batavia (Marlins), State College (Cardinals), Mahoning Valley (Indians) and Williamsport (Phillies).

The proposed stadium has a financing plan that received state approval but has not been finalized, WVU deputy athletic director Mike Parsons said.

"There are some legislative steps that need to be done," Parsons said. "The bonding capacity has been approved for the tax-increment funding. It needs to go through the House of Representatives. Once the house approves it, the governor needs to sign it. There are also some administrative things that need to be done. It will need to be approved by the WVU Board of Governors."

WVU currently has two-year agreements with baseball stadiums in Charleston and Beckley. Parsons said that wouldn't prevent the Mountaineers from moving to the Morgantown stadium in 2015.

"We can get out of the contract," Parsons said.

Four New York-Penn League clubs share facilities with colleges and universities. State College, for instance, is affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals and shares a facility with Penn State.

A new stadium would be an upgrade for West Virginia, which is playing its first season in the Big 12.

Fellow conference member Texas has a baseball facility seating more than 6,500 spectators with chairbacks on more than 5,000 seats and covered seating throughout most of the stands. In 2005, Texas' baseball stadium underwent an $18 million renovation.

Hawley Field has been West Virginia's on-campus baseball stadium since 1971.

"If you look at college baseball in the last 20 years, every time a program has built a facility like this, the program has made an immediate jump," first-year WVU baseball coach Randy Mazey said. "This is probably the single biggest event to happen in Morgantown baseball history."

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jharris@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JHarris_Trib.

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