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Pensacola Blue Wahoos to be economic driver for Northwest Florida

Quint Studer
Quint Studer's Blue Wahoos start play at the new Community Maritime Park stadium next month. [Photo: Gary McCracken/Pensacola News Journal]

Quint Studer became a baseball fan when he was 10, boarding a bus near his home in Chicago to watch the White Sox play at old Comiskey Park nearly every Sunday.

Today, Studer owns his own baseball team, a Cincinnati Reds AA affiliate he bought in 2010 for $15 million. The team starts play on April 5 in a new stadium in Pensacola that Studer helped pay for.

Studer, founder of the Studer Group healthcare consulting company, investor in several businesses, author and Pensacola philanthropist, views his Pensacola Blue Wahoos as more than a sports team. "When you build a downtown park on the water, on land not used, you've created an economic engine" that can attract new business and new residents. "People like to live in a vibrant community," he says.

The 5,000-seat ballpark is part of the $54.6-million Community Maritime Park, scheduled to be complete March 31, that also contains an amphitheater, walkways and gardens. By early January, budding Wahoos fans had bought 2,320 season tickets, priced from $390 each, and outfield signs and scoreboard advertising were sold out.

Blue Wahoos President Bruce Baldwin took over team management after a 27-year stint with the Atlanta Braves organization.

It's been shown time and again that baseball is an economic driver for development, says Baldwin, citing more than a half-dozen towns with minor league teams. "It doesn't happen overnight. You create a catalyst."