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Stadium may not be ready in time

By VINCE DEVLIN of the Missoulian

Less than two months from their home opener, the Missoula Osprey still aren't sure what field they'll play ball on.

Will it be their new riverside ballpark? Their old "temporary" home, Lindborg-Cregg Field?

Or someplace else?

"Basically, our goal is still to be in the new park," Osprey general manager Matt Ellis said Monday. "But since we don't control construction, we are in the process of exploring contingency plans should the new stadium not be ready."

Lindborg-Cregg, home of the American Legion Missoula Mavericks and where the Osprey have played all their Pioneer League home games for the past four years, is the natural starting point for a backup plan if the new stadium isn't inhabitable, Ellis said. But he said no deal has been signed that would allow the Osprey to use the field again.

"Us approaching them and asking them to work us into their schedule, is asking a lot at this late date," Ellis said. "We don't have a deal for the Legion field."

Bill Hoffman, president of the American Legion baseball program, said that's true. "We're in the middle of negotiations," Hoffman said. "It's delicate, as you can imagine. The Mavericks have had their schedule in place, we have obligations to other teams, seasons passes have been sold - it's a real challenge at this late date to look at changing all that. But anything is potentially doable. We're looking for the greatest good for the greatest number."

Calls to a representative of Play Ball Missoula, which is building the ballpark, to ask what the holdup has been, were not returned Monday.

If the new park isn't ready by June 23 and the Osprey and Mavericks can't work out a deal, the Osprey "have some ideas" as to other options but "don't want to go into those things" unless it becomes necessary, Ellis said.

"We are committed to staying in Missoula," Ellis said. "It's not a matter of if, it's just a matter of when the new stadium will be ready."

The stadium is still awaiting the structural steel and cement forms being built off-site that form the next stage of construction.

"The project itself is in great shape," Ellis said. "The problem is just in the timing - when will it get done? There are people working their tails off to make it happen as quickly as it can."

Both Ellis and Hoffman said the Osprey and Mavericks should know within two weeks whether the Pioneer League team will be able to use Lindborg-Cregg Field again for all or part of a fifth year if necessary.

Ellis said the Osprey should know in a month whether their new home will be ready in time for opening day.

"We've dealt with this for four years now," he said. "We'll deal with it for another year if we have to."

Reporter Vince Devlin can be reached at 523-5260 or vdevlin@missoulian.com

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