Buffalo Bisons in, Thunder temporarily out at Trenton ballpark
The Buffalo Bisons will call Trenton home to at least start their season in May as their own stadium gets taken over by the Toronto Blue Jays.
The move was forced by a continued closure of the U.S./Canadian border because of the coronavirus. The Blue Jays played their 2020 season at the Bisons' home park, Sahlen Field, and will return there once renovations are complete. They are currently playing their "home" games at their spring training complex in Florida.
First pitch for the Bisons, the Blue Jays Triple-A minor league team, in their temporary home will be May 4 when they are scheduled to host the Worcester, Massachusetts Red Sox. How long the Bisons stay depends on when the Blue Jays can freely move between the two countries.
The Bisons' announcement marks a comeback for the Trenton Thunder organization, which lost their minor league affiliation with the Yankees after their 2020 season was canceled by the coronavirus pandemic. During the off season, the Thunder announced a new affiliation with the new MLB Draft League whose players will be some baseball’s top prospects.
The move also means the Thunder team will temporarily play elsewhere.
"We'll take on the Bisons schedule in Trenton now and we are currently working with Major League Baseball to find a suitable home for the draft league team for the 2021 season. That information should come out once everything is set in stone," Thunder General Manager Jeff Hurley told New Jersey 101.5.
The Thunder had already sold some plans for the 2021 season and the team will reach out to those ticketholders. Tickets for Bison games have not yet gone on sale for Trenton.
Hurley said recent improvements to the Thunder ballpark, which had been called Arm & Hammer Park until recently, were drawn to bring the Bisons to New Jersey rather than a stadium closer to Buffalo.
"This ballpark is a top facility in the country that is ready to go. Mercer County has done a tremendous job over the years of keeping this place looking beautiful and top notch. With our player facilities that we have and our fan amenities that we have I think once we were able to show that to Major League Baseball and Toronto I think that's why they're here," Hurley said.
Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes called it "terrific news" for Mercer County.
"The county's investments in the stadium in conjunction with Thunder management have ensured that it remains a first-rate facility for players and fans alike, and we look forward to another exciting summer at the ballpark," Hughes told New Jersey 101.5 in a written statement.
Hurley said that the park will be able to keep its commitment to host community events including proms and high school commencements and has been in touch with the affected organizations.
"We've been able to move things around since we had been working with the Blue Jays and Bisons and Major League Baseball. We'll be hosting graduations and dance recitals and events at the ballpark still and we're excited about that. We're able to offer an outdoor venue where people can safely social distance and they'll still get that here at the ballpark," Hurley said.
Under Gov. Phil Murphy's executive order outdoor facilities with seating of at least 2,500 are permitted to host events at 30% capacity. All attendees at the event remain 6 feet apart from other attendees, except those individuals who purchase or reserve tickets together may be seated together. Attendees will also be required to wear masks within the facility, except when eating or drinking.