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Public hearing planned on Joplin ballpark funding

Joe Becker Stadium

Proposed public funding of Joplin’s Joe Becker Stadium renovations for an independent American Association team will be debated at a public hearing next Monday.

The proposal calls for $9.3 million in upgrades to the surrounding area and the historic ballpark, which once hosted Minor League Baseball. The city would pay for $4 million in improvements, with debt serviced by $150,000 in annual rent from WLD Suarez Baseball LLC, which owned the El Paso Diablos (independent; American Association). From the Joplin Globe:

The memorandum permits city administrators to pursue discussions with Suarez to nail down the details on a lease of the stadium from May 1 to Sept. 10, starting from Aug. 1, 2014, and continuing through Sept. 10, 2024. The Suarez group would pay $150,000 a year for the lease in quarterly installments of $37,500. The group also would pay the city a third of the stadium expenses, such as utilities.

The Suarez group wants the city to increase stadium seating from 2,000 to up to 4,500, install lights suitable for night games, install new restrooms, and update the concession stand and press box. Those projects would cost an estimated $4 million.

Suarez has offered to build an entry plaza to the stadium and some parking lots, and later add some restaurants and loft apartments at the plaza.

One issue: exactly how the city would pay for these improvements.

There is plenty of history at Joe Becker Stadium: it opened in 1913 and hosted minor league baseball throughout the years; players like Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Joe Garagiola and Ken Boyer have graced the field. But it’s small — the official capacity now is 1,070 — and it’s not the same ballpark as the one from 1913, as it’s been rebuilt twice due to fires. The Division II Missouri Southern Lions have called it home in recent years, but that program is departing for an on-campus facility.

Image courtesy Missouri Southern.

RELATED STORIES: Joplin to negotiate ballpark lease with Diablos owners; Diablos owners pitch Joplin on ballpark improvements; Diablos close out El Paso tenure; Diablos talking end of Cohen Stadium lease


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