Lookouts remain Burke's for now

Lookouts remain Burke's for now

February 5th, 2011 by David Paschall in Sports

Lookouts' owner Frank Burke sits in right field with an oversize glove during a 2010 game against the Birmingham Barons.

Frank Burke will be the owner of the Chattanooga Lookouts on April 7, when they open the 2011 season at AT&T Field against the Tennessee Smokies.

Burke also expects to be the owner Sept. 5, when the regular season concludes at home against Montgomery.

"It's very unusual for a baseball team to sell during the season, so if I'm here at the beginning, I would assume I will be here at the end," Burke said Friday. "Who knows? Maybe I'll be here next year. There is a lot of stuff that is in transition with my family, and we're just trying to figure it all out.

"Right now, it's business as usual, and we're looking forward to it."

Burke continues to explore opportunities to sell the storied Class AA franchise because of the declining health of his father, Daniel Burke, who turned 82 on Friday. The Burkes bought the Lookouts in 1995 along with a third partner, Charles Eshbach.

The purchase price was not made public, but several sales of similar franchises during that time were for $3.5 to $4 million.

Southern League president Don Mincher told the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal that the average cost of a Double-A franchise now is $12-15 million. Pensacola businessman Quint Studer purchased the Carolina Mudcats in December and will relocate them to the Florida panhandle city for the 2012 season.

When asked by the News Journal if the purchase price was between $12 million and $15 million, Studer said it was at the "high end" of that range.

Burke does not expect the Lookouts, should they be sold, to have a price tag that high because they will not be changing locations.

"It is frustrating when people from time to time ask me if the Lookouts would leave," he said. "I don't see any scenario in which the Lookouts would leave. There is a fairly substantial investment on Hawk Hill that would keep them here, so no matter what happens I just don't see that being the case."

Professional baseball in Chattanooga dates back to 1885, and it has been played continuously in the city since 1976. The Lookouts are a couple of months away from beginning their third year as affiliates of the Los Angeles Dodgers after a 21-year partnership with the Cincinnati Reds.

Chattanooga and Los Angeles have a player development contract through the 2014 season.

"This is what I love doing," Burke said. "If and when the team is sold, it will be sold for reasons bigger than me that are family related. I'm going to have fun and do what I do and hopefully provide the same level of entertainment. We're working hard to make it a nice year."