The Northwoods League, which has seen unparalleled success and attendance increases every year since its inception in 1994, may be expanding its operations as the league looks to add a franchise in Duluth next season.
Talks between Duluth mayor Gary Doty and NWL president Dick Radatz, Jr. are under way. Doty set a mid-October deadline to finalize stadium lease details and Radatz wants details finalized for a team in the Twin Ports by November.
Thunder Bay, Ont., and LaCrosse, Wis., are also being considered as expansion options. If the NWL expands to those cities and Duluth, a 12th team would have to be added.
For the past 10 years, Duluth had been home of the Duluth-Superior Dukes, who played in the Northern League. With attendance lagging, the Dukes left the Twin Ports in favor of Kansas City, Kan., Sept. 4.
Brainerd Mighty Gulls owner Perry Platisha said he and other owners see nothing but positives if a team in Duluth is added.
"If Duluth does just a percentage of revenue of what they did before, they'll be successful," Platisha said.
"I think the time is right to expand. Ownership throughout the league is stable. It makes the league bigger, stronger, and makes the other franchises worth more. Duluth has been in the back of everyone's minds."
Platisha said although there will be some added travel costs, the Mighty Gulls would probably play more of their games against teams in their division.
"Thunder Bay scares me a little bit," said Platisha, "that'll be a haul. We'll probably end up playing more games within our division and travel less to the South Division. Duluth brings some history with it to the league and their stadium has a lot of character."
Mighty Gulls notes
* Pitcher Aaron Marsden has been named to the Baseball America Summer Collegiate All-American team. Marsden led the NWL in ERA and was the Mighty Gulls' top pitcher in 2002.
* Tyson Hanish and Ben Vannatter will receive the first Rawlings Silver Glove Award for the best fielding percentage at their position throughout the NWL season.
* The Mighty Gulls plan to sign former Brainerd Warrior standout Kyle Berg to a contract for the 2003 season. Berg is a junior outfielder at Augustana College in South Dakota.
* The Mighty Gulls have hired Nate Olson as a full-time staff member. Olson will be involved in operations and sales throughout the offseason and will be an on-field assistant coach during the season.
* Northwoods League Manager of the Year Kyle Crookes of Brainerd has accepted a full-time teaching/coaching position at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College and will not return to the Mighty Gulls in 2003.
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