SBJ/April 9 - 15, 2001/No Topic Name

Lexington, others continue building boom for minors

Five new Minor League Baseball parks are scheduled to open in 2001, including one in what has been the largest market without a professional team.

Lexington, Ky., last home to baseball in 1954, will open Legends Baseball Park today. The Legends will be in their first season as a Class A affiliate of the Houston Astros. A horse racing and college basketball hotbed, Lexington was before today the largest market without a team.

New ballparks also will open in Lakewood, N.J.; Brooklyn and Staten Island, N.Y.; and Casper, Wyo., while PGE Park in Portland will reopen after a major, $38.5 million renovation. One ballpark that originally was scheduled to open this year, in Missoula, Mont., will not be ready until next season at the earliest.

The new venues are part of a decade-long building boom that league executives hope will continue the resurgence of the minor leagues. Although there is no current effort to do so, persuading communities that there is value in building modern facilities for new or relocating teams is key, they said.

"We have to find ways to show communities that [minor league baseball] is worthwhile to them," said Frank Burke, part-owner of two Class AA clubs and a member of the Minor League Baseball board of trustees. "People talk about the quality of life it offers, but there has to be a dollar figure attached to it."

Between 1990 and this season, 77 new minor league ballparks have opened, not counting dozens in independent leagues not affiliated with Minor League Baseball. This year, independent-league parks open in Camden, N.J.; Edinburg, Texas; Lincoln, Neb.; and Collinsville, Ill.

Many of the affiliated teams replaced facilities that did not meet safety or other standards.

"There were some 50- to 70-year-old stadiums that would have cost more to renovate than rebuild," said Jim Ferguson, a spokesman for Minor League Baseball. "But particularly recently, what you're seeing being built are major league-caliber ballparks with smaller seating capacities."

Ferguson and Burke said the minors do little to encourage the development of ballparks, either by lobbying communities regarding their benefits or by offering any sort of financial incentive to the city or team to pursue a new venue. Burke said he hoped that would change.

The Lexington ballpark is privately financed. In New York, the city is paying for the bulk of KeySpan Park for the Class A Brooklyn Cyclones, a New York Mets affiliate, and Richmond County Bank Ballpark for the Class A Staten Island Yankees. In Casper, where a new Class A team will play, the city donated land while private sources paid $2 million for ballpark construction.

2001 minor league ballpark openings

Listed in order of opening date


Lexington Legends Baseball Park

Location: Lexington, Ky.

Tenant: South Atlantic League (Class A) Lexington Legends

Architect: Stadium Consultants International Inc.

Owner/operator: Team (both)

No. of seats: 6,033

No. of suites/club seats: 24/785

Projected cost: $13.5 million

Funding: Part of a $23 million complex privately financed by a group of 23 local investors, led by Legends' principal owner Brad Redmond

General contractor/construction manager: H&M Construction Co.

Concessionaire: In-house

Opening date: April 9


GPU Energy Park

Location: Lakewood, N.J.

Tenant: South Atlantic League (Class A) Lakewood BlueClaws

Architect: HNTB

Owner/operator: Township of Lakewood/team

No. of seats: 6,588

No. of suites/club seats: 20/none

Projected cost: $22 million

Funding: $20 million from New Jersey's Urban Enterprise Zone bonds (To enhance development in 29 specific areas, New Jersey's Urban Enterprise Zone program imposes a sales tax of 3 percent, instead of the state's standard 6 percent. New Jersey puts the other 3 percent into a fund, which financed the ballpark). The ballpark represents the largest project ever funded by UEZ. GPU Energy signed a 20-year, $4.8 million naming-rights deal in October; remainder is private.

General contractor/construction manager: Hill International

Concessionaire: Volume Services America

Opening date: April 11


PGE Park*

Location: Portland

Tenants: Pacific Coast League (Class AAA) Portland Beavers; Portland State University Vikings; USL A-League Timbers

Architect: Ellerbe Becket

Owner/operator: City of Portland/Portland Family Entertainment

No. of seats: 20,000 for baseball, 30,000 for football and soccer

No. of suites/club seats: 38/1,000

Projected cost: $38.5 million

Funding: $5.5 million from team owner Portland Family Entertainment; $33 million will come from bonds serviced by operating revenue from the stadium and from city hotel/motel taxes. Portland General Electric signed a 10-year, $7.1 million naming-rights deal in July.

General contractor/construction manager: Turner Construction

Concessionaire: In-house

Opening date: April 30


Campbell's Field

Location: Camden, N.J.

Tenants: Atlantic League (independent) Camden Riversharks, Rutgers University baseball

Architects: Clark Cayton & Hintz

Owner/operator: Rutgers University/team

No. of seats: 6,425

No. of suites/club seats: 20/417

Projected cost: $23.5 million

Funding: $3 million grant from Rutgers University (primarily funded by the state of New Jersey); $6.5 million long-term loan from the Delaware River Port Authority; the remaining from private sources. Campbell Soup Co. signed a naming-rights deal in January. Terms were not disclosed.

General contractor/construction manager: Quaker Construction

Concessionaire: Volume Services America

Opening date: May 11


Edinburg Baseball Park

Location: Edinburg, Texas

Tenants: Texas-Louisiana League (independent) Edinburg Roadrunners; University of Texas-Pan American

Architect: Cotera, Kolar, Negrete & Reed Architects

Owner/operator: City of Edinburg (both)

No. of seats: 4,000

No. of suites/club seats: 10/none

Projected cost: $6.5 million

Funding: 100 percent public through a $6.5 million certificate of obligation from the city.

General contractor/construction manager: Valley Contractors

Concessionaire: Gametime Concessions (in-house)

Opening date: May 23


Haymarket Park

Location: Lincoln, Neb.

Tenants: Northern League (independent) Lincoln Saltdogs; University of Nebraska baseball

Architect: DLR Group

Owner/operator: City of Lincoln/Saltdogs and University of Nebraska

No. of seats: 4,500

No. of suites/club seats: 16/320

Projected cost: $32 million

Funding: Equally split among the city from existing funds, the Saltdogs and the University of Nebraska. Entire complex includes a softball field and pedestrian plaza.

General contractor/construction manager: Sampson Construction

Concessionaire: Levy Restaurants

Opening date: June 1


Grizzlies Stadium

Location: Collinsville, Ill.

Tenant: Frontier League (independent) Gateway Grizzlies

Architect: Kuhlmann Design Group

Owner/operator: Collinsville Metropolitan Exposition, Auditorium and Office Building Authority/team

No. of seats: 2,500

No. of suites/club seats: 6/none

Projected cost: $6 million

Funding: Approximately $4 million will be paid by the team; the public portion will come from a 1 percent increase in the district food and beverage tax.

General contractor/construction manager: Holland-Hinrichs Construction Inc.

Concessionaire: In-house

Opening date: June 12


Mike Lansing Field at Crossroads Park

Location: Casper, Wyo.

Tenant: New Pioneer League (rookie/short season) team

Architect: Sovereign Sports

Owner/operator: City of Casper/team

No. of seats: 2,500

No. of suites/club seats: None/none

Projected cost: $2 million

Funding: City donated land; remaining came from private sources, including the American Legion and Casper native and current Boston Red Sox Mike Lansing.

General contractor/construction manager: Sovereign Sports

Concessionaire: In-house

Opening date: June 22


Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George

Location: Staten Island, N.Y.

Tenant: New York-Penn League (Class A/short season) Staten Island Yankees

Architect: HOK Sport

Owner/operator: New York City/team

No. of seats: 6,500

No. of suites/club seats: 21/none

Projected cost: $34 million

Funding: 100 percent public through city of New York capital funds; $4 million in private funds will be added for scoreboards and concessions equipment once construction is complete. Richmond County Bank signed a nine-year, $3.6 million naming-rights deal in May.

General contractor/construction manager: Bovis-Lend Lease

Concessionaire: In-house

Opening date: June 24


KeySpan Park

Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.

Tenant: New York-Penn League (Class A/short season) Brooklyn Cyclones

Architect: Jack Gordon Architects

Owner/operator: New York City/team

No. of seats: 6,500

No. of suites/club seats: 12 suites plus one 50-person party deck

Projected cost: $38.5 million

Funding: 100 percent public through city of New York capital funds. KeySpan Energy signed a naming-rights deal in February. Terms were not disclosed.

General contractor/construction manager: Turner Construction

Concessionaire: Aramark

Opening date: June 25


* Extensive renovation project

Source: Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal research

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