Casper Horseheads Close Operations After Four Years

Updated: Dec. 19, 2022 at 1:30 PM CST
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CASPER, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - One of Casper’s only local sports teams closed operations after four years. The Casper Horseheads, a minor league baseball team, made the decision to close down two weeks ago after a lot of discussions between owner Chuck Heeman and his family.

There were a couple of major reasons that led Heeman to end operations for the Horseheads. None of these were more significant than the financial struggles that the team faced during their time operating. This was especially true during the first couple of years, as it was tough for them to generate income. On top of that, they remained open during the pandemic, operating at a loss.

“I don’t know that we ever recovered from shutting down for the pandemic year in 2020. We kept our office open, we kept our people on salary, we got our bills paid. We did the best we could to survive that. Which meant that we had for the 2021 season, we lost a lot of income in taking care of those people from 2020,” Heeman said. “I don’t know that we ever dug out of that.”

After the 2022 season, the minor league team had to make the decision if they were going to extend their lease with the city for an additional two years. Ultimately, they had to decide how much deeper into the hole they would have to go.

“I’ve been in baseball all of my life. As much as I love baseball and as much as I love doing this, it’s still a business and we still got to get our bills paid,” Heeman said.

Knowing the brutal reality of the situation, Heeman didn’t want the debts to continue to pile on and knew that he wouldn’t be able to pay the staff that had taken care of the team over the years.

While the pandemic was a huge blow to the Horseheads financially, they also struggled to make a connection with the fans. Without a true fanbase, it became increasingly difficult to generate revenue.

“It’s very hard to find what people respond to consistently. We found a few things that really worked well, but [not] on a consistent basis... and this is nothing against the people of Casper; it’s a great town,” Heeman said. “We on our end just couldn’t find that connection to where we could build that audience into what we needed it to be to make sure that we were going to be sustainable.”

With financial troubles and an inconsistent fanbase, the final straw for Heeman was the stress on his family. Heeman and his family operate two other teams, the Western Nebraska Pioneers and the North Platte Plainsmen.

“It was really rough this summer, doing that and trying to be there all the time. We’re getting older and... If you look at all of the factors coming in it was just kind of time to do this,” Heeman said when asked about how he managed to operate three teams.

The Horseheads played in the Expedition League, a league that was dedicated to collegiate players playing in the summer. He will not be relocating the team.