After a summer of speculation, baseball will return to Kinston in 2017, according to a Monday announcement by Minor League Baseball.
The Texas Rangers’ current Advanced-A affiliate, the California League’s Adelanto, Calif.-based High Desert Mavericks, will fold after the 2016 season and be replaced by a new Rangers-affiliated franchise in Kinston. The new team will play in Grainger Stadium.
The Carolina League is also planning to add a second expansion team, giving the league 10 total teams, with Fayetteville reportedly aiming to claim that franchise.
“It’s flattering that clubs are making a major commitment to become part of our league, enabling us to return Carolina League baseball to an outstanding community where we have some memorable history, and we look forward to selecting our 10th city in the near future,” Carolina League president John Hopkins said in a news release.
Grainger Stadium will undergo renovations to its clubhouses, weight rooms and concession stands, according to the news release. It will also need new outfield padding and playing field upgrades, Kinston Parks and Recreation director Bill Ellis said earlier this month.
The second expansion team has not yet been determined, but Fayetteville is the only city specifically named in the announcement.
Fayetteville officials signed a memorandum of understanding to outline negotiations with the Houston Astros last week and have been working on plans for a $33 million new stadium on Hay Street in downtown.
Fayetteville Councilman Jim Arp has said that if a team arrives before the scheduled 2019 completion of the stadium, the team would need to temporarily play in a yet-to-be-determined location. According to the news release, the California League’s Bakersfield Blaze is also ceasing operations after this summer, so it’s possible that Fayetteville could have a team before 2019.
The Carolina League is currently split into two, four-team divisions. The expansion would presumably increase the divisions to five teams each, and the northernmost team in the South Division — the Salem (Va.) Red Sox — could switch divisions to make room for two new North Carolina teams.