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Norwich - There will be minor league professional baseball at Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium this summer, but fans will have to wait until Friday to learn the name of the home team they will "root, root, root for" come June 18.
The City Council held a half-hour executive session Tuesday with the president of the New York-Penn League to iron out final language of a lease for an as-yet-unnamed team that will move to Dodd Stadium this year.
The council later voted unanimously to authorize city manager Alan Bergren to sign the lease, which was greeted by applause from several residents and city officials in the audience.
League President Ben Hayes said an announcement on which of the 14 teams in the short-season Class A minor league is coming to Norwich likely will be made Friday afternoon at City Hall.
Alderman H. Tucker Braddock called the lease agreement "very, very important" for the community, especially for youths to have a place to go in summer.
The approved lease mirrors the draft letter of intent approved earlier this month with the Norwich Baseball Stadium Authority calling for a 10-year lease starting at $100,000 per year for the 6,000-seat stadium. Lease payments outlined in the letter of intent would rise to $120,000 at the end of the 10-year period. The team would have three five-year options to extend the lease through the 2034 baseball season. Lease payments could end as high as $165,000 in 2034 if all renewal options are exercised.
There also is a clause that would allow early departure at the end of the 2014 baseball season.
Norwich lost the Class AA Connecticut Defenders after the 2009 season, when the team moved to Richmond, Va. But the New York-Penn League became interested in Norwich nearly a year ago, when rumors first surfaced that the Defenders planned to move, Hayes said.
The stadium and the city compare favorably with the league's current locations, he said, and it would not be difficult to adjust the 2010 schedule already announced. The league starts play on June 18, two weeks after the annual amateur baseball draft by Major League baseball teams. Many drafted players report to New York-Penn League teams.
Hayes said once the new team is announced, he expects a quick ramp-up to sell tickets for the coming season.
"I expect them to be in the community very soon, setting up shop and selling tickets," Hayes said.
But the relocation still needs three approvals. Now that the Norwich City Council approved the lease, the team must apply formally for relocation permission from the league. Hayes and the league board of directors will review that application.
Then it must be approved by Minor League Baseball and the Major League Baseball's commissioner's office. Hayes said those approvals could take 45 to 65 days, but said he was "very confident" of their approvals and that they would not hold up the announcement of the new team.