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Monday, August 8, 2011

City should extend Silver Knights pact

Telegraph Editorial

When any new business venture begins operating, it is reasonable to expect that it will hit a bump or two in the road. Don’t tell that to the Nashua Silver Knights, the city’s entry in the fledgling Futures Collegiate Baseball League.

Those who worked for the Silver Knights this year would, no doubt, have a story or two of minor mishaps they encountered. But in the big picture, the summer wooden-bat team, featuring top players from Division II and III schools, was a big hit on and off the field. On Friday, the Silver Knights won the FCBL championship, defeating the Torrington Titans of Connecticut.

Off the field, Silver Knights management was sufficiently encouraged by the reception it has received from Nashua baseball fans that it is seeking a two-year extension on its Holman Stadium lease. That proposal is pretty much unchanged from this year’s rental agreement.

It includes $22,000 in annual rent, allowing the Silver Knights to also handle the concessions for all events – their own and others – at Holman Stadium. The city would get 40 percent of the concession profits from non-Silver Knight events.

The two-year extension would replace a series of five one-year mutual agreement options, as the team was looking for something more permanent to show the fan base it intends to stay.

Not only would the extension guarantee the city income to help pay down the bond issued for Holman’s major 2002 renovations, it reassures area baseball fans that the Silver Knights are settling in for the long term.

“We’re very happy with what this team is doing,’’ said Jon Goode, Silver Knights and Lowell Spinners vice president. “We’re not going anywhere, and the city doesn’t want us to go anywhere.”

Indeed, the community has quickly adopted the ballclub as its own. The Silver Knights led the league in attendance, averaging 869 fans per game, The Spinners, who manage the club’s business affairs, had hoped to draw between 300 and 500 fans per game this season.

The business community also responded with sponsorships. And there is every reason to believe that, given a full off-season to work on ticket sales and lining up more partnerships with local businesses, that the ballclub will enjoy continued growth in the 2012 season.

Nashua’s independent minor league team, the Nashua Pride (later called the American Defenders), experienced no such happy honeymoon. The team had to battle its way past a very vocal minority of Nashuans poised to criticize its every move and still managed to survive for 11 years.

With the benefit of hindsight, the Silver Knights avoided the controversies that haunted the Pride throughout its existence, mostly connected to its status as Holman Stadium’s primary tenant. They aggressively sought relationships in the Nashua youth sports community, which happily welcomed them.

The FCBL has lined up a fifth team for the 2012 season and is on the lookout for a sixth. It is refreshing to see that Nashua and Holman Stadium have emerged as the league’s flagship franchise.

From all indications, Nashua and the Silver Knights are just beginning a happy, fruitful relationship.