LANSING, Mich. – Diamond Baseball Holdings (DBH), an organization that owns and operates select minor league clubs affiliated with Major League Baseball (MLB), has entered into an agreement to purchase the Lansing Lugnuts from Take Me Out to the Ballgame, L.L.C. (TMO), the Lugnuts announced Wednesday. It is the franchise’s
LANSING, Mich. – Diamond Baseball Holdings (DBH), an organization that owns and operates select minor league clubs affiliated with Major League Baseball (MLB), has entered into an agreement to purchase the Lansing Lugnuts from Take Me Out to the Ballgame, L.L.C. (TMO), the Lugnuts announced Wednesday. It is the franchise’s first ownership change since TMO purchased the Waterloo Diamonds in 1994 and brought the Lugnuts to Lansing in 1996.
The Lugnuts will continue to be directed by the current front office staff, led by general manager Zac Clark, and the franchise will remain in Lansing as the High-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics.
Executive Chairman Pat Battle and CEO Peter Freund oversee DBH, each a lifetime baseball fan and owner and operator within Minor League Baseball (MiLB) before joining DBH in December 2021. The Lugnuts will join Triple-A’s Iowa Cubs, Memphis Redbirds, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and Gwinnett Stripers; Double-A’s Midland RockHounds, Mississippi Braves, Portland Sea Dogs and Wichita Wind Surge; High-A’s Hudson Valley Renegades and Rome Braves; and Single-A’s Augusta GreenJackets and San Jose Giants in being operated by DBH.
“The Lugnuts have been one of the great joys in my life. It is a bittersweet decision to sell the team,” said TMO managing partner Tom Dickson. “But I can promise you that DBH’s Peter Freund and Pat Battle are terrific people who love baseball, and I am confident that the Lugnuts and the City of Lansing are in good hands with them.”
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to own such an iconic franchise as the Lugnuts, built by one of the best owner/operators in the game in Tom Dickson,” said Peter Freund, CEO of DBH. “We could not imagine a better city, ballpark or management team, and we look forward to being part of the Lansing community for years to come.”
The transaction will be completed subject to TMO obtaining all necessary league and City of Lansing approvals. With the purchase, DBH will assume the Lugnuts’ lease upon the finalization of the transfer. The current rights to Jackson® Field™ extend through 2034; the intention by all parties is to keep the Lugnuts in Lansing far longer than that.
As the Lugnuts were about to start up their inaugural season, on March 25, 1996, The Washington Post’s Eric Freedman wrote in an article titled “Will Baseball Come Through in the Clutch? With Car Industry, Lansing Pins Hopes on New Team,” “Their name may not be elegant, but the Lansing Lugnuts, a lowly minor league baseball team soon to debut here in a $12.7 million stadium, are sparking dreams of a pennant and a downtown renaissance.”
The twin dreams of a pennant and the downtown renaissance were both soon attained. That first season the Lugnuts drew 538,325 fans, averaging 7,802 per game, and broke the national record for highest single-season attendance for a debuting Class A team. In 1997, the Nuts drew 523,443, averaged 7,813 per game, hosted the All-Star Game and won the Midwest League championship.
In the decades since, the Lansing Lugnuts have continued to break new ground for MiLB franchises, showing innovation and staying power despite adverse conditions for the industry as a whole. The Nuts have drawn nearly 9.5 million fans in 26 seasons – not counting the canceled 2020 MiLB season in which the team hosted the 20-game collegiate wooden-bat Lemonade League and sold out each game at 100-fan capacity.
The team’s annual exhibition against Michigan State University, the Crosstown Showdown, has drawn well over 100,000 fans since it was introduced in 2007, producing the largest single game attendances in franchise history: 12,862 in 2008; 12,992 in 2009; and 12,997 in 2012 in a game televised on BTN.
In 2014-2015, the team embarked on an award-winning $25.5 million stadium renovation project, modernizing the facility with a 360-degree concourse, HD video board, digital ribbon boards, permanent stadium seating, refurbished clubhouses and venues, and, most significantly, a multi-use facility constructed in partnership with Gillespie Group with the Lugnuts operating The View banquet, Good Hops craft beer and burger bistro, and a 2,000-fan group venue below space for nearly 100 apartment units overlooking the outfield.
Five years later, the Lugnuts met perhaps their most difficult challenge. In the winter following the COVID-canceled 2020 season, Major League Baseball took over Minor League Baseball and 42 Minor League teams lost their affiliations, including three of Lansing’s fellow Midwest League franchises. But the Nuts made it through, signing a ten-year Player Development License to become the Oakland Athletics’ new High-A affiliate. Just two years later, 15 former Lugnuts are on the Athletics’ spring training roster.
Meanwhile, the area around the ballpark has been transformed, with the Stadium District rising up vibrantly around the facility in apartments, bars, restaurants, and the Capital City Market grocery, replacing what Freedman described in 1996 as “industrial buildings, adult bookstores and shabby secondhand-furniture shops, and then bulldozed into parking lots.”
“We say in baseball that a season is a marathon, not a sprint,” said Dickson. “These last 27 years have been their own marathon – at times exhilarating, at times challenging, but at all times rewarding. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. It's been, frankly, pretty nuts what we’ve been able to accomplish. I’m grateful to the people I’ve met here and the relationships we’ve built.”
The Nuts return to action at Jackson® Field™ on Tuesday, April 4, for the 15th annual Crosstown Showdown against Michigan State University before opening the 2023 Midwest League season at Great Lakes on Friday, April 7.
For more information, visit lansinglugnuts.com or call (517) 485-4500.
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