Orem Owlz move to Colorado officially announced, won’t happen for at least two years
Jeff Katofsky addresses a crowd gathered at the Runyon Sports Complex about his decision to move his minor league baseball team to Pueblo on June 20, 2018, in Pueblo, Colorado. (Zachary Allen, The Pueblo Chieftain)
Orem Owlz center fielder Yefry Santana (28) takes the field as the starting lineups are announced during the Orem Owlz’s home opener against the Ogden Raptors on Monday, June 19, 2017 at Brent Brown Ballpark in Orem. ISAAC HALE, Daily Herald
Orem Owlz owner Jeff Katofsky is currently in Pueblo, Colorado, as he makes it official that the rookie league baseball team that has been in Utah Valley since 2001 will be heading east.
It won’t be for a couple of years, however, as he said he hopes to have the first pitch in Pueblo in 2020.
In videos posted Wednesday morning on his @mestas5317 Twitter account by Anthony A. Maetas (a reporter with the Pueblo Chieftain), Katofsky said that, with the lease contract expiring in Utah, he started looking for other options.
“I wanted to do a youth program in Utah for a long, long time but ultimately I couldn’t get it done there,” Katofsky said in the video. “I started to look at a half dozen cities that work in the Pioneer League demographics and geography, Pueblo being one of them.”
There were some things that had to fall into place for the move to work.
“Ironically, one of the issues with Pueblo is that the location, the location in the county is actually owned by the Elmore Group that owns the Colorado Springs team but they gave that to me and had me look here,” Katofsky said in the video. “Both Grand Junction, the Baker family, and the Elmore Group said get your butt to Pueblo. I really considered it because I respect their opinions. It was one of the six cities that I got the rights from Minor League Baseball to go look at.”
He said that he liked the attitude the city had toward the sport.
“Pueblo is a baseball town, which is a big part of it,” Katofsky said in the video. “I love historic downtown. I think architecturally I think it’s great. I think the opportunities are terrific. But the biggest piece for me was that you have a big youth program here and the ability to build additional youth fields so I can do the tournament baseball for kids that I have wanted to do for a very, very long time. The rest of it sort of flows out from there.”
He also talked about the naming and some of the logistical changes that will be made as the team transitions from Orem to Pueblo.
“It will still be the Owlz,” Katofsky said in the video. “The first name will change, not the last name. We spent a lot of time on branding and marketing. We will change some of the logo sets to incorporate the locale here but we will keep the Owlz name. We are hoping to have first pitch here in 2020.”
Although Orem will host the Owlz for two more years, it appears clear that the organization didn’t get the support it hoped for in recent seasons.
Over the past five years, Orem averaged 1,513 fans per home game in 2017 (sixth in the eight-team Pioneer League), 1,554 in 2016 (sixth), 2,256 in 2015 (fourth), 2,248 in 2014 (fifth) and 2,314 in 2013 (fifth).
The team shared UCCU Ballpark with UVU, which means their departure might impact the Wolverines down the road.
For now, however, UVU vice president of finance and administration Val Peterson isn’t looking that far into the future.
“We have enjoyed the great summer tradition the Orem Owlz baseball team has brought to UCCU Ballpark since 2004,” Peterson said. “We wish owner Jeff Katofsky, his organization and the team the best as they relocate to Pueblo, Colorado. We look forward to working with them up until their contract expires.”Here is the official press release from the Orem Owlz on the move:
”OREM, UT. — With mixed emotions the Orem Owlz announce the likely relocation of their franchise to Pueblo, Colorado. The relocation date, at least two seasons away, is yet to be determined. The date will be released as soon as possible.
”After more than a decade of unsuccessfully trying to locate and create a youth baseball facility in Utah County, Orem Owlz majority owner, Jeff Katofsky shared, ‘It has always been my dream to have a youth facility that could host tournaments and help develop young players from all over the country, including disadvantaged and special-needs athletes. Pueblo Colorado has embraced the concept and provided us with the opportunity to not only accomplish this legacy, but also to have a new stadium built for the Owlz.'
”Katofsky continued, ‘Utah County has been my family’s second home for almost 15 years. This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, but this is an opportunity to involve and teach our kids baseball and, hopefully, leave a mark. We have loved our time in the Provo/Orem and surrounding communities. We are so grateful for the Owlz fans and community/corporate partners in which we have been associated.'
”The Owlz continue to plan their FANtastic 2018 and 2019 seasons in Orem with many memorable promotional nights planned. Look out for more releases on our various social media platforms for this upcoming season.
”Note: Any relocation is subject MiLB and MLB approval.”