An $8-million renovation plan for McKechnie Field, home to the Bradenton Marauders (High Class A; Florida State League) and spring home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, could be approved this week by city and county governments.
The redesign of the classic ballpark calls for a reconfiguration of the seating bowl, with two distinctive seating areas replaced by seating extended from the grandstand and press box, which would be retained. The area under the new expanded grandstand would be enclosed, while a Walk of Fame would honor important figures in Bradenton baseball history. Canopies similar to the existing canopies would be built on top of the new grandstand, with group areas slated for the top row. The area beyond the home-run fence would be renovated: an SRO concourse and Pirate's Cove concession area/Tiki bar would be located beyond right field, all connected via 360-degree wraparound. Some of the work is necessary: last season two Marauders games were moved after inspectors determined the canopies over the first-base and third-base sections were unsafe.
Fawley Bryant, out of Sarasota, is overseeing the design.
What's new: a funding plan. Under the current proposal, Manatee County would divert $400,000 annually in resort taxes to Bradenton; in turn, Bradenton would take out a loan from Bank of America to fund construction; no bonds will be issued. The Pirates, in the meantime, would increase in-kind spending on Manatee County tourism from $150,000 annually to $400,000. It sounds like the scope of the project has been scaled back a little -- a 3,000-seat expansion may not be in the cards, as the original plan was priced out at $9 million -- but a final plan still must be presented.
The ballpark will be 90 years old in 2013, when improvements will be completed in time for spring training. McKechnie Field opened in 1923 as the spring home of the St. Louis Cardinals and was renovated in 1993 and 2007. The Pirates have been training in Bradenton since 1969. The Boston/Milwaukee Braves trained there in 1938-1940 and 1948-1962.
RELATED STORIES: McKechnie Field renovation in the works
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