OGDEN -- Fresh from a win in 1992's election, Glenn Mecham compiled a list of goals he wanted to accomplish as Ogden's first full-time mayor.
Atop the paper, he jotted down words that were to become his legacy: Build a baseball stadium for a professional baseball team based in Ogden.Now, seven years after he vowed to bring baseball back to Ogden, he takes to reserved seats at Lindquist Field for home games of the Ogden Raptors, a Pioneer League team affiliated with the Milwaukee Brewers. The $4.6 million, 3,000-seat stadium opened in 1997.
He notes with some pride that his 65,000-resident city secured a major-league sponsor and built a stadium before Provo could get past first base. Provo is now in talks with the Helena Brewers. If a deal is inked, the team could be playing in Utah County as soon as next year.
"They had a tremendous leg up on us," he said. "I expected that Provo would have fielded a team and built a stadium before we would. But I don't regret we got ours first."
Mecham's ardent fealty to the Raptors, witnessed by his delight in the smell of salted popcorn and the sight of youngsters lining the fence eagerly waiting a chance to chat with the players, is noticeable.
"This is Americana at its best," Mecham boasts. "It's what makes America good."
Ogden, though, isn't anonymous among baseball legends. For years, minor-league players played and coached on the city's fields of dreams, hoping to catch the eyes of talent scouts.
Tommy Lasorda managed the Ogden Dodgers in the 1960s. Frank Robinson batted around with the Ogden Reds. And the Ogden A's in the 1980s helped the career of the then-unknown Rickey Henderson.
Mecham admits the process to find money to build the stadium was not easy. In fact, after a series of failed talks with potential big-name donors and public squabbles with the City Council over donations, he referred to the 5.6-acre facility as his own "political tarbaby."
Witness some struggles: A U.S. Bankruptcy Court trustee's office in 1995 questioned how Mecham's administration secured the land at 24th Street and Lincoln for the stadium. Concerns were raised about the city's $10,000 payment to a local businessman to stop him from bidding on the property.
Ogden then bought the parcel, worth $500,000 at the time, for $155,000.
A handful of council members also refused to let him forget the initial stadium plans did not call for city financial support. And, after three years, a search for a large donor proved fruitless. Eventually, Raptor co-owner John A. Lindquist gave slightly more than $1 million for the naming rights.
In all, the Legislature also contributed $1 million and the City Council agreed to pitch in $2 million from a budget surplus. Donations covered other costs to start construction.
Was the rocky road worth it? Has the city earned back its investment?
"In terms of cash, I can't qualify a yes answer," he says. "But in multiplier effects and in community morale, it definitely has earned a return -- and will increase exponentially."
Asked to give advice to Provo, Mecham responds in cautious, measured tones: "Things like this build the heart of a community. If you don't have a strong heart, then you don't have a strong city. It becomes Anywhere USA."
Of course, Ogden and Provo, as cities, have numerous disparities. But Raptors president Dave Baggott has been in the rookie-league baseball business in Utah for 12 years and he knows the basic concepts of what makes a franchise work. Provo leaders have met with Baggott to tap into his expertise.
The way Baggott sees it, Provo is an ideal spot for the national pasttime. Like Mecham, Baggott relishes the idea of a Provo-Ogden rivalry. Travel costs would decrease and interest would likely increase.
"I'd tell our fans to dress as radically as possible when they go to Provo," he joked.
He points out that the best high school baseball players in the state traditionally come from Utah County. Provo also has the political desire to support baseball and can tap into BYU's abundant resources.
"Those factors would turn Provo into the jewel of the Pioneer League," Baggott said.
In 1993, Baggott began negotiating with Ogden after his previous employer, the Pioneer League's Salt Lake Trappers, left for Pocatello. After some legwork, he was able to form an ownership group.
Provo's bid to land a team differs from Ogden's in that the owners of the Brewers, Southern California attorneys Rob Owens and Linda Gach Ray, are established and anxious to relocate to Provo.
"The ownership group is solid. They will make it successful in Provo," Baggott said. "Provo already has a team. They're simply moving. The owners are not starting from scratch."
The key lies in building support, and an identity, with local residents. "The ability to draw fans," Baggott said, "equates to success or failure."
He knows. He's one of the best in the business, having been named the Pioneer League's executive of the year several times. The Raptors are averaging almost 2,500 per game, which is third in the league.
Not bad considering they have the league's worst record.
Baggott's philosophy? To attract people to the stadium any way possible. Most important, he says, is offering cheap ticket prices -- at Lindquist, cost ranges from $3.25 to $6.75.
"You're offering a group of kids nobody knows," he explained. Besides, minor-league teams earn a large share of their profits from concession and merchandise sales. Team success has little to do with success at the turnstiles.
"Of the 3,000 fans that come to a game, 1 to 2 percent are diehard purists," Baggott said. "The rest want to be entertained. If you entertain them at an affordable price, the outcome is irrelevant. That's how we try to run our club. We are 4-17 at home right now. We'd draw nobody if it depended on wins and losses. People come for the entertainment value."
Some observers contend people in Utah County are too frugal in their spending habits to support baseball. A few say Utah County residents are too much into other outdoors activities to spend time at a ballpark on a warm summer's night. Hogwash, Baggott says.
"Other than pitching a tent in the woods, what's more affordable than going to a minor-league game in Provo?" he said. "It's one more entertainment option."
Baggott has a few other tips for Provo:
The stadium should be downtown, where city businesses can benefit from the economic impact of fans arriving early and staying late to shop and eat.
The stadium architecture also must be distinctively designed and a reflection of Provo. Lindquist Field was built over an old steel mill, and its architecture reflects that motif.
Then, after offering a litany of suggestions based on years of on-the-job experience, Baggott cautions that even the best-laid plans don't guarantee anything.
"Once you do all of that, you're good to go," he said. "But not until the uniforms arrive do you know you're playing ball."