The Orem Owlz are moving to Pubelo, Colo. in time for the 2020 season, the team’s owner announced in a video posted by the Pueblo Chieftain Wednesday.
Jeff Katofsky, the owner of the advanced-rookie league affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels, plans to relocate the ball club to Colorado with the intention of starting a youth baseball program in the city located 45 miles south of Colorado Springs.
The project calls for a $25 million stadium to be constructed, six youth baseball fields and an addition of three new hotels in Pueblo’s downtown area.
“Our lease is coming up in Utah,” Katofsky said in an interview with Anthony Mestas. “I wanted to do a youth program in Utah for a very long time, and ultimately couldn’t get it done.”
Katofsky said youth sports epicenters are popping up across the country and are growing into a large industry. Parents are using their vacation budgets to take their children to play in youth sports tournaments throughout the summer and he wants to tap into the opportunity.
“It makes sense here in Pueblo. You have the facility, you have the people, you have the downtown, you’ve got all these things to do in Pueblo,” Katofsky said.
The Owlz signed a 10-year lease agreement with UVU for the use of UCCU Ballpark for their June to September seasons in 2012. The agreement, which runs through October 15, 2022, called or the Owlz to pay $48,400 a year through the 2017 season, and $55,560 a year for the final five years of the contract.
How the Owlz plan to be released from their contract with UVU in time for Katofsky’s goal for the team to play home games in Pueblo in 2020 remains to be seen.
UVU does have an escape clause wherein they could terminate the agreement with two years written notice because the Owlz and UVU had “Legitimate, yet serious, major, irreconcilable disputes” between them for more than 90 business days.
Orem City told milb.com that the relocation date, at least two seasons away, is “yet to be determined.” The city, which also said it had, “mixed emotions” about the team’s departure, may have a different feeling than some UVU employees, who declined to be named, who felt the Owlz were not adequately compensating the university for the use of its facility.
The contract states that UVU and the Owlz would share costs of repairs and maintenance 50/50, however, the total cost could not exceed $3,000 a year. This became an issue when major repairs, like that of the scoreboard in 2017, needed to be completed.
As for Katofsky, no alcoholic beverages could be sold in the facility, adversely affecting his ability to turn a profit.
Val Peterson, UVU’s vice president of finance and administration, said Tuesday, before Katofsky officially announced the intention to move, that, “Utah Valley University has had no discussions with the Orem Owlz about the announced move to Pueblo Colorado. We currently have a contract with the Owlz through 2022.”
Wednesday, following the announcement, Peterson said, “We have enjoyed the great summer tradition the Orem Owlz baseball team has brought to UCCU Ballpark since 2004. We wish owner Jeff Katofsky, his organization and the team the best as they relocate to Pueblo, Colo. We look forward to working with them up until their contract expires.”
“Lease issues between UVU and the Owlz are between those organizations,” Katofsky said via email Saturday. “We have had a positive relationship with the university for close to 15 years and fully intend and expect that professional, friendly relationship to continue.”
Ty Bianucci is a life-long fan of the San Francisco Giants, 49ers and Golden State Warriors who started on the sports beat for The Review, but now contributes investigative stories. He, along with two of his colleagues, were awarded the Sunshine Award in 2018 by the Society of Professional Journalists.