After five years, the PIAA baseball championships are leaving Altoona.
But they aren't going too far.
The PIAA voted Friday during its board of directors meeting in Mechanicsburg to move its high school baseball championship games from Blair County Ballpark to Penn State's Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, which also serves as home to the State College Spikes.
"Sure, we are disappointed,'' Altoona Curve general manager Rob Egan said. "I don't think we did anything not to keep them. I think it had more to do with softball and volleyball being [at Penn State] and it making logistical sense to the PIAA. They had nothing but good things to say about our hosting of the games.''
In addition to the baseball, Penn State also won the right to host the PIAA softball finals, which traditionally are held the same day, at its still-to-be completed facility. Shippensburg University was the long-time host for the softball championships. Penn State also got the boys volleyball championships as part of a process to determine all spring sports championship sites from 2011-2014.
BCB has been the site of the PIAA baseball finals since 2005. More than 3,000 fans attended the championship games last month, bolstered by nearby Central making into the Class AA title game.
PIAA chairman Brad Cashman supported Egan's statement that BCB didn't lose the games so much as the effort to bring them to Penn State won the state's scholastic sports governing body over.
"[Blair County Ballpark's] bid was identical to Medlar's. There wasn't anything in the bid that caused us to move it,'' Cashman said. "Myself and [PIAA assistant executive director] Mark Byers have a great relationship with them, as good as with any of the people at our championship sites.''
Cashman cited three reasons that Medlar Field got the nod over BCB
n The presence of the softball facility - "Years ago, when we had both the baseball and softball at Shippensburg University, it worked very well. When you have a school with teams in both championships, which has happened, it works very well because fans can attend both,'' Cashman said.
n Less chance of scheduling conflict, because the PIAA finals usually would occur in the gap between the end of Penn State's baseball season and the start of the Spikes' short-season Class A New York-Penn League campaign. This also gives the teams access to the locker rooms, clubhouses and field-level restrooms.
n Medlar Field seats about 1,500 fewer fans than does Blair County Ballpark. That might not seem like an advantage at first, but it is when you want your venue to appear packed and intimate.
"Many of the years in Altoona, the stadium was too big for our crowds. This year, it wasn't so obvious because of the crowd Central brought and some of the other out-of-area teams traveling really well,'' Cashman said, "but we think both [Penn State facilities] fit us for baseball and softball. We've outgrown [Shippensburg's] Robb Field for softball.''
Harrisburg's Metro Bank Park and Allentown's Coca-Cola Park - both of which recently had hosted minor league all-star games - were also in the running, as were Johnstown's Point Stadium and Erie's Jerry Uht Park, home of the Easter League's Erie SeaWolves.
"This was definitely the best year we've had for truly outstanding facilities bidding on our championships,'' Cashman said. "It wasn't easy. It wasn't easy to leave Altoona.''
Egan said the BCB contingent felt good about the bid BCB made. Egan said the Allegheny Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau contributed to BCB's effort, as did some local business.
"We actually made the bid even better than the winning bid four years ago. At the end of the day, it was very competitive,'' Egan said.
There didn't appear to be any hard feelings on Egan's part, either.
"They are certainly going into a good facility,'' Egan said. "We can't say anything negative about the PIAA.''
Penn State representatives, meanwhile, were understandably pleased.
"We're very excited to host all three championships,'' Penn State assistant athletic director Jenn James said. "We have a great working relationship with the PIAA from other championships. We're just excited to be able to showcase our facilities.''
Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center has also been the site of the PIAA basketball championships since 2007. PIAA officials visited University Park on Wednesday to inspect Medlar Field and Nittany Lion Softball Park, which is slated for completion in February.
"We used our coaches - baseball coach Robbie Wine and softball coach Robin Petrini - to help make our presentation,'' James said. "Robin showed them what she'd show future recruits, what this facility can mean to the program and to softball in the northeast.
"We have a lot of the work done. It's pretty easy to visualize what it's going to be like.''
Blair County Ballpark will have the opportunity to bid on the baseball finals again in 2014. Egan didn't confirm BCB would try to get the games back, but it sounded like a reasonable presumption.
"We'll have it in the back of our minds,'' Egan said. "It's something we enjoyed. While not a financial windfall, it was good for the community.''