LACONIA — The Laconia Muskrats are no more. The team is changing its name to the Winnipesaukee Muskrats in the hope of widening its appeal in the Lakes Region.
Kristian Svindland, general manager of the Laconia Muskrats, the city's franchise in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, announced yesterday that the ownership and management of the team have made the switch.
Svindland informed the Parks and Recreation Commission of the decision when it met last night. Kevin Dunleavy, director of Parks and Recreation, said the commissioners one way or another to the news.
He emphasized that "Laconia is our home," but added "the team is for the Lakes Region. He noted that Robbie Mills Field is less than 30 minutes from Alton, 25 minutes from Tilton and 20 minutes from Meredith while Plymouth is within 30 minutes of the ballpark.
Svindland said attendance has been a challenge during the first six seasons, lagging behind the numbers posted by other teams in the league – most, if not all, of which have larger populations to drawn from. The Newport Gulls, perhaps the strongest franchise in the league, draws crowds of 2,400," he said, while some 1,200 regularly watch the Keene Swamp Bats. He said three other teams in the league also have names designating regions — the Vermont Mountaineers, who play in Montpelier; the Valley Blue Sox, who play in Holyoke, Massachusetts; and the Ocean State Waves, who play in South Kingston, Rhode Island.
Likewise, Svindland noted that the host families who house players during the season are not confined to Laconia, but reside in the greater Lakes Region.
"We want to encourage our neighbors from Franklin to Wolfeboro, Belmont to Plymouth to attend games," he said.
Apart from the name, Svindland said nothing will change. The logo will remain the same and Marko will continue as the mascot. Although the team will sport new uniforms, the colors will remain Columbia blue with brown trim.
Last month, the father-and-son partnership of Jonathan and Noah Crane that brought the Laconia Muskrats to Laconia sold their franchise to a trio of businessmen from Portsmouth – Todd Hewett, who is the president of the organization, Ira Blumenthal and Andy Minckler – and named Svindland, a longtime resident of Laconia, general manager with responsibility for day-to-day operations.
"This is a dream come true for me," said Svindland. "I love baseball and the city of Laconia, and am thrilled to have the opportunity to help attract the most talented players to our team, improve the experience for the fans at the park, and also strengthen the team's ties to the community by getting our players involved in a variety of community service projects."
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