First it was stock-car racing. Now, minor league baseball.
Fenway Sports Group, an arm of the company that owns the Boston Red Sox and Fenway Park, said today it is buying a controlling stake of the minor league Salem Avalanche baseball franchise, based in Salem, Va.
No price was announced.
The Avalanche play in the Class A Carolina League, three rungs down from the major league level. The Avalanche has served as an affiliate of the Houston Astros since 2003, and it is expected to maintain that relationship for the 2008 season. The Red Sox currently have relationships with three Class A teams, the Lancaster JetHawks of Lancaster, Calif.; the Greenville Drive of Greenville, S.C.; and the Lowell Spinners.
In February, Fenway Sports Group bought 50 percent of Roush Racing, one of the largest teams in NASCAR auto racing.
The deal is subject to the approval of Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball.
"The Salem Avalanche is a model minor league sports franchise with a rich history, having played in a region that has supported professional baseball for more than a century," group president Mike Dee said in a press release, prepared before the 2:45 p.m. announcement that was made in Salem today.
The Avalanche plays at Lewis-Gale Medical Center Field at Salem Memorial Baseball Stadium. The Avalanche's record is 360-334, or .519, since it joined with the Astros.
"We look forward to a long and rewarding relationship with Fenway Sports Group," John Hopkins, president of the Carolina League, said in the press release.
Fenway Sports Group will be the lead investor in the ownership group. Red Sox principal owner John Henry founded Fenway Sports Group to boost revenue for New England Sports Ventures, the parent company that owns the Red Sox. In addition to its Nascar investment, it provides consulitng and marketing services to Major League Baseball Advanced Media, the PGA tour's Deutsched Bank Championship, and Boston College athletics.
The New York Times Co., parent of the Globe, holds a 17 percent interest in New England Sports Ventures.
(By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Globe staff)