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Olean development corporation severs ties with baseball team

OLEAN – After three years of unexpected costs and uncertainty, the Olean Local Development Corporation will sever its ties with the Olean Oilers of the New York Collegiate Baseball League.

The removal of the team from the development corporation’s budget had been planned from the start, according to city community development coordinator Mary George.

Over the past few months, the members of the development corporation have been talking about how to best dispose of the team. Some were considering putting it out for requests for proposals; others wanted to simply eliminate the corporation’s budget for the team and walk away, allowing for the team to be transferred to a new owner without any kind of sale.

“We thought we would have to put [the team] out for bid, but have found that the team is not an asset and, in all honesty, could not be sold,” George said. “That being the case, we are going to take the item line out of the budget. We have been in talks with the league and have told them that we are stepping away to allow for an owner to take control.”

The Olean Oilers have been operating at a financial loss since they came into existence three years ago. One of the largest unforeseen expenses, according to George, was paying for housing and food for the players.

The original idea was to have the players stay with host families throughout the season. That idea never panned out and players were housed at St. Bonaventure University, creating the need to pay for food and lodging.

When that situation is coupled with the need for facilities, bats, uniforms, travel, and the other expenses, the Olean Oilers have consistently been in the red more than a few thousand dollars each year. The OLDC plans to pay those debts as it steps away from the team.

The lack of owners has generated a bit of concern for the baseball league, George said. Her contacts with the administration have unveiled their questions about whether the people of Olean really want a team in Bradner Stadium.

“We do want them to be here,” she said. “But, it will be under different owners. We plan to have the stadium ready for the 2014 season. There is no question there.”

The mission of the OLDC will change from the day-to-day ownership of a baseball team and will focus on renovation of Bradner Stadium, she said.

“We don’t have a fieldhouse,” she said. “We have been working on that and plan to continue that project. We have applied for the funds needed to complete that project through the current round of consolidated funding application through New York State.”

“The function of the OLDC has been to fundraise and develop the stadium,” she said. “The OLDC is going to go back to that mission and make the stadium a place to go for not only baseball, but for so many other events.”

The full timetable for team ownership to change from the OLDC to new ownership have yet to be confirmed.

In the 1930s, an Olean Oilers team, minor league affiliate of many professional teams including the New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox, played ball in Bradner Stadium.