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Sep 20

The Great Lake Loons

Comments (0) 9:00 AM posted by admin |

Substitute Lansing for Midland, then substitute Ypsilanti for Lansing.

From the September 7th edition of the Saginaw News.

What a wonderful inaugural season for the Great Lakes Loons.

By attracting 324,564 fans, the Class A Los Angeles Dodgers affiliate finished fifth in attendance in the Midwest League — including 30 sellout home games.

The Midland franchise finished last in the league’s Eastern Division, but who cares? There’s the fireworks, the autographs, the handshakes with the players, the up-close and affordable family entertainment that a minor league baseball team can bring to mid-Michigan residents.

Oh, it also provided 23 full-time jobs and more than 200 seasonal part-time jobs. Every little bit of employment helps, especially around here.

As a nonprofit organization, the Michigan Baseball Foundation — the club’s parent — can put its profits into charities. It gave away more than 1,000 tickets, raised more than $30,000 for causes such as breast cancer research by auctioning off jerseys and got sponsors to donate money for extra base hits.

In all, it has raised about $150,000 so far, and after dealing with its expenses it plans to give away more for youth athletics, including scholarships or grants for baseball fields.

But there’s more to the Loons than entertainment, jobs and charity. Something bigger.

“We have become a regional team, with fans coming from Midland but also from Bay City and Saginaw …,” said William Stavropoulos, the former Dow Chemical Co. chief executive officer who helped organize the Michigan Baseball Foundation.

That’s precisely what Dow wanted when the foundation formed the team. Regionalism. Making the Tri-Counties a package deal is one of the keys to keep around here the international talent the Fortune 50 company hires. It also improves the lifestyles of those of us who are already here. Dow even has paid $200,000 to an Arlington, Va., consulting company to figure out ways to do that.

Numerous regional efforts already are in place — MBS International Airport, Delta College, Saginaw Valley State University and our strong medical facilities. The Midland and the Saginaw Bay symphony orchestras. Hemlock Semiconductor is becoming a powerful and growing Tri-County economic force.

But there also are some newcomers. The Vision Tri-Counties leadership group. TheDow Event Center in downtown Saginaw, which attracts major entertainment events. It’s also where the Saginaw Spirit junior amateur hockey team plays.

And now the Loons and their sparkling Dow Diamond (which, by the way, will host the 2008 Midwest League All-Star Game in June).

With their first season now officially a success, they’ve hit a home run for the Tri-Counties.

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