Longtime Iowa Cubs owner thanks fans, workers in letter after selling team to California company

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Longtime Iowa Cubs owner Michael Gartner thanked fans, workers and city of Des Moines partners after selling the AAA team to California-based Endeavor, a global sports, entertainment and marketing company.

""We are proud of the baseball operation that we have run for the past 22 years," he wrote in the letter posted to the Iowa Cubs website.

Gartner, who purchased the team in 1999 from the family of then-owner Ken Grandquist following his death from a stroke, also discussed the improvements made to Principal Park, home of the Iowa Cubs.

"We thank you all," Gartner said in closing.

More: Iowa Cubs to be sold to California-based sports-entertainment firm Endeavor

More: Michael Gartner on selling the Iowa Cubs: 'I'm just going to enjoy the games the way I used to'

Full text of Michael Gartner's letter to Iowa Cubs fans

Iowa Cubs owner Michael Gartner speaks during a naturalization ceremony Tuesday, July 6, before a game against the St. Paul Saints at Principal Park. Twenty-five people from 15 different countries took the oath of allegiance to the United States of America and became U.S. citizens. Since the Cubs' first citizenship ceremony in 2009, more than 400 people have participated in the annual on-field event.
Iowa Cubs owner Michael Gartner speaks during a naturalization ceremony Tuesday, July 6, before a game against the St. Paul Saints at Principal Park. Twenty-five people from 15 different countries took the oath of allegiance to the United States of America and became U.S. citizens. Since the Cubs' first citizenship ceremony in 2009, more than 400 people have participated in the annual on-field event.

There have been only three owners of the team in Des Moines since Triple-A baseball returned to Des Moines in 1969 — Ray Johnston (1969-1981), Ken Grandquist and his associates (1982-1989) and my partners and I (2000-2021).

All of us have had a strong commitment to baseball and to the city. My partners and I are convinced that the people at Endeavor will carry that commitment forward. Sam Bernabe, the current president and general manager, will remain in charge of the Iowa Cubs, and no one is more committed to baseball and Des Moines than Sam.

We are proud of the baseball operation that we have run for the past 22 years. Our partners are the best in baseball — our partners in City Hall who have worked with us to make sure that Principal Park remains the best and handsomest in baseball; our partners in Chicago, who have worked diligently to ensure that we have had teams to be proud of; our partners in central Iowa who have supported us with advertising dollars; our partners, the fans, who so much enjoy nights (or afternoons) at the ballpark, where those great fans can have great fun and see great baseball.

And, particularly, our partners on the staff — the 25 or 30 folks who work so hard all year making sure the ballplayers have a great field, the community has a first-rate stadium, and the fans have a good time in a clean and safe and joyous environment. Many of those staff members have been with us for more than 20 years.

We are proud of the many improvements we have made, sometimes on our own and sometimes in partnership with the city. We were one of the first professional baseball teams to extend safety netting to the edges of the dugout and, later, down to the foul poles. We were one of the first minor-league teams to install state-of-the-art, energy-efficient Musco LED lights. We twice put in big, new scoreboards and also added an electronic ribbon board in the outfield. We added a new sound system, a video operation that is, in fact, a TV station. We put in all new seats and added the 88 Home Plate Club seats as well as the Bud Club seats.

Three times we put in new playing surfaces.

We added bleachers in right-field, a fountain in the redone area in the right-field corner and, in effect, a beautiful public park with fountains just beyond the outfield gates. We offered land to build the Miracle Field across Second Avenue, and we maintain and keep that field up-to-date, and we also maintain for the city the riverfront area trails that stretch from the MLK Bridge across the Des Moines River to the Jackson Avenue Bridge across the Raccoon River.

We were the first baseball park to hold swearing-in ceremonies for new citizens before a game, which we have done annually since 2009. In all, 419 men and women have become citizens in park ceremonies.

And in 2000, we became one of the first smoke-free outdoor sports venues in the nation.

In 12 of the years, paid attendance has topped 500,000 — more than twice the population of the city of Des Moines. And another 483,254 fans came to the park during the 16 years we hosted the Iowa high school baseball tournament.

As I said, we’re particularly pleased that Sam has agreed to stay on as general manager of the Iowa Cubs. He has worked here his entire life, and he knows Minor League baseball better than probably anyone else in America. He long served as head of the Minor League Board of Trustees, was named Minor League Executive of the Year, and has long been a force for good in baseball.

We wish him well, naturally, as we wish well to the new owners and all of our partners over the years. In coming years, we’ll still be watching the games — but now from our seats in Section L.

We thank you all.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Michael Gartner, longtime Iowa Cubs owner, thanks fans after team sold

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