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Associated Press BUTTE - The Pioneer League's Copper Kings, who called Butte home since 1978, have relocated to Casper, Wyo., finally confirming months of speculation that the team would be uprooting.

"The Butte Copper Kings franchise will not be in Butte for the 2001 and beyond seasons," club general manager Brent Boznanski told the Montana Standard of Butte in a telephone interview Thursday from the club's new office in Casper.

City officials there planned a news conference Tuesday to introduce the new team, Wyoming's first professional baseball team in more than 70 years.

Boznanski cited continuing threats from Major League Baseball to pull the franchise from Butte because of the condition of Alumni Coliseum, which the league deemed unsuitable for professional baseball. Casper has plans for a new $5 million ballpark.

Boznanski said the new stadium is expected to open in time for American Legion baseball play in May and Pioneer League games in mid-June. He said he was told work on the project may start in January.

He said the deal with Casper came together recently after several weeks of negotiations between club co-owner and chief executive officer Kevin Haughian and Casper officials.

"The (Casper) American Legion was playing on a field that had some safety concerns," Boznanski said. "The city, in conjunction with the Legion, decided to raise money for a new facility. With what they had in an account to build a facility, we saw that as an opportunity to partner up."

In September, the Copper Kings signed a four-year player development contract with the Colorado Rockies.

At the time, Kevin Haughian, co-owner and chief executive officer for the Copper Kings, said the Rockies made it clear then they were not interested in their minor-league team playing at Alumni Coliseum and that a search for a new home was under way.

Boznanski said the decision to move was a business one and pressed for by baseball concerns.

"As far back as five years ago, that I'm aware of, Major League Baseball really came down hard on the team for the facility being inadequate," Boznanski said.

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