Ballpark in Hoofddorp may be up for sale

The ETO Ballpark in Hoofddorp may be sold to a private party that is interested in buying the home of Meerlease Pioniers. Back in 2014, the ballpark opened its doors as it was meant to host Europe’s first MLB game.

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Things would be a lot different. Despite alleged promises by MLB, that game would never come to Hoofddorp. The ballpark met all MLB standards. Even special clay for the infield was used to convince MLB to send two teams to the town near Amsterdam.

The municipality of Haarlemmermeer, where Hoofddorp is located started to lobby for this new ballpark. Especially the alderman of Sports Michel Bezuijen. Due to shrewd financial moves and reports, he managed to convince the city council of Haarlemmermeer to build the stadium. He claimed that MLB had said “if you build it, it will come”, referring to the MLB games that would be played in Hoofddorp. But now it has become clear that MLB never made any promise.

After the construction of the stadium was finished, it became clear that the alderman had used money that wasn’t meant to be used for the construction of the ballpark. Next to that, the budget was exceeded by a whopping €860,000. The total cost of the ballpark (only the construction) was €12.3 million, not much to American standards but still quite an amount for a Dutch town.

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But the €12.3 million was not the end of this vexed issue. The ballpark would be managed by a foundation called ETO. But soon the foundation proved to be a financial mess. The foundation is asking the municipality of Haarlemmermeer for help on a regular basis. The city council has investigated what is the best option to keep this nice ballpark running. First, the council opted to keep on with the current construction. That would mean that a one-time payment of €755,000 had to be paid to fill a major gap. But next to that, an annual amount of €255,000 has to be paid to keep the foundation alive.

The chairman of another baseball club in the same municipality complained that this would be unfair towards other clubs as they don’t get this much of a subsidy.

As the city council realized the chairman was right, they had to look for a different solution. But pulling the plug isn’t the option. This would mean that Meerlease Pioniers would not have a place to play its games anymore. The club cannot be blamed for playing at a ballpark that is not cost-effective. So now a local party came up with the plan to sell the ballpark to a private entity. In this way, baseball can still be played at the ballpark, while the top floor of the complex can be used for commercial activities.

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Not everything is clear yet, but that would likely mean that Meerlease will have to pay rent to a private landlord instead of the municipality of Haarlemmermeer.

To be continued…

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