With the beginning of their sixth season, the Gate City Grays face challenges of staying new and vibrant while having the benefit of being well-established at the same time.
The Grays immediately captivated Pocatello’s attention in their 2014 inaugural season and the semi-pro baseball team plans to continue to retain interest, as the start of seasons still feel like family reunions to Gate City co-owner Terry Fredrickson, who sees familiar faces year after year.
“It feels great to be around people that you have – over the last six years – grown to love, just like family,” Fredrickson said. “I think a legacy of Pocatello coming together in a common cause is important to me. We can all have our political differences. We can all have our religious differences, but when it comes to cheering for a baseball team – that we can have in common.”
While having the option to bank on tradition to attract attendees to Halliwell Park, Fredrickson explained ways in which things will be different.
No, there will still not be fireworks, no matter how much Fredrickson wants them because his insurance won’t allow it. But there are first-time players, a first-year player development coach in former Gate City player Tanner Daley, a new uniform design, plus an increase in theme nights.
But what was most tantalizing is a new feature Fredrickson wants past this season for Gate City and the Pocatello baseball community: a new baseball park.
“One of the biggest things we’ve been advocating since we started this was the necessity of a new baseball field,” Fredrickson said. “We need another stadium, bottom line. We need something Legion and (Idaho State club) baseball and all of the high schools and the Grays can use and take pride in. Halliwell’s getting ancient. It’s getting older. It’s got its infrastructure problems, so it would be great one day to have a new baseball field in this town.”
Fredrickson said the park would preferably be in Old Town Pocatello as it would “revitalize it,” but it would be OK with him if it wasn’t. The same is true for Grays co-owner Erica Fredrickson, who did her master’s thesis in public administration on bringing a baseball field to Old Town Pocatello, touching on a new park drawing people to Old Town among other things.
The Grays have discussed the idea with city officials, private investors and Pocatello Parks and Recreation Director John Banks, according to Terry, who said he would put forth some of his own money for a park, but declined to say how much.
“There’s a lot of people who have this vision,” Terry said. “This isn’t just a Gate City Grays vision. There’s a lot of Legion families, a lot of politicians. The mayor (Brian Blad) has definitely caught this vision.”
If Terry could have it his way, the surface of the field would be turf to counteract Pocatello’s unpredictable weather – the main park accommodation discussed.
“It’s going to be a team effort to build a stadium,” Terry said. “Think about all the tournaments we could bring in. I personally recommend a turf field. I think that would be phenomenal. But yeah, it’s something that’s really needed. It’s going to take a team to do it. ”
The Gate City co-owner would not predict the likelihood of the stadium, saying “I don’t know.” He is thankful for Halliwell Park, but noted nine teams use the field, which are three high schools, four American Legion teams, Idaho State club baseball and the Grays.
During the summer, the Grays share the park with Legion, which they have to devise an intricate, non-overlapping schedule with.
“It’s not really a negotiation. We just sit down and do our best to try to figure it out,” said Terry, who noted how Legion and the Grays each had to move at least one game for each other this year.
Gate City will soon sign its newest contract with American Legion. Among the stipulations is that American Legion receives 85 percent of the Grays’ concession sales, while the Grays receive 15 percent. Last year, the split was 90-to-10, favoring Legion. The Grays split alcohol sales with the Centennial Rotary Club and receive 100 percent of the ticket sales.
Terry said the team is a “break-even business.” Other than earning a profit, a hope he has for the Grays is to keep building the name. There are zero plans of selling the club, but when it is eventually attempted Terry hopes “the Grays are bigger than the Fredricksons.”
“If Erica and I leave, we still want the Grays to be part of this town,” Terry said. “We want it to be their identity. We want them to take pride in wearing a Grays shirt, having a Grays hat on, being in another town and someone walking up and saying ‘Go Grays.’ That’s a common language. That builds community right there.”