TRAVERSE CITY, MI-A governmental panel has approved plans to build a minor-league baseball stadium in one of Michigan’s most-visited vacation areas. Grand Traverse County’s Blair Township planningcommissioners have voted unanimously to give final approval to plans for a 4,500-seat baseball stadium proposed by Wuerfel Sports Development, LLC.

The site plan requires no further approval. The site is a few miles from the Traverse City border. The Blair Township proposal was Wuerfel’s second attempt to bring a ballpark to the area. Last year, it proposed building one in neighboring Leelanau County’s Elmwood Township, but those plans were withdrawn after months of controversy over zoning.

“We believe there are reasons things happen,” Leslye Wuerfel says. “Now we have a spot already zoned commercial and in an area that’s welcoming growth.” The Blair Township site has higher visibility, better roads and the state is putting in a traffic light near the site next summer, she adds.

The Wuerfel group plans to break ground by November and field the Traverse City Beach Bums of the independent Frontier League in May 2006, Wuerfel says. The Wuerfel family has tentative approval from the league pending construction of the stadium. The family hasn’t decided if it will start a new franchise and pay the $825,000 franchise fee or purchase an existing team, she adds.

Wuerfel says the family initially dismissed going to Blair Township because it wanted more space. The original plan called for an indoor practice facility large enough to host winter baseball leagues.

The Wuerfels won’t be building that facility or Little League fields, but the baseball stadium will feature 3,500 hard seats plus table seating, 18 luxury boxes and grass seating behind the outfield fences.

Office space, concessions, indoor batting rooms and two clubhouses will be housed in a connected two-story building. Wuerfel says the group eventually wants to build a 30-room hotel in right field primarily to house visiting teams and umpires.

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