As the Altoona Curve (Class AA; Eastern League) continue to make their case for ballpark upgrades, league president Joe McEacharn is assisting in the cause.
Back in April we took a closer look at the situation in Altoona, where the Curve are seeking a longterm plan to fund upgrades to People Natural Gas Field. The goal is to establish a fund that is worth more than $2 million to cover the cost of basic structural improvements, plus upgrades to the field, lighting, and ticket office.
McEacharn was in Altoona on Tuesday to meet with Blair County commissioners, who are considering a proposal to fund upgrades through an increase in the hotel tax, which would jump from 3% to 5%. Though a vote on the proposed tax hike will not take place until at least next month, both McEacharn and Blair County commissioner Terry Tomassetti expressed optimism that a deal could be completed.
The league and the team seem to be in agreement that the Curve are secure in Altoona for the short run, but that repairs to PNG Field are crucial to its viability as it approaches its 20th season. (It first opened in 1999.) One remaining issue as far as both parties are concerned is the ballpark’s landlord, Lakemont Partnership. McEacharn contends that the group led by Ralph Albarano, which leases the ballpark’s land from the county, has been an obstacle in assuring the team’s viability in Altoona. More from the Altoona Mirror:
“What he’s not willing to do is budge,” McEacharn said. “He wants to maintain the same income streams and revenue streams that he has. He is not willing to take any responsibility for capital maintenance.
“I’m frustrated with the landlord only and their response,” the EL president added. “Make no bones about it – everybody else, I’ve enjoyed the process. We’ve been listened to, we’ve been heard and we’ve listened. This is a two-way street, and we’re very much aware of that.”
Told of McEacharn’s comments, Albarano said he prefers to keep the negotiations private.
“If he wants to discuss our business in the newspaper, that’s his choice,” Albarano said. “But I don’t really care to discuss that. And what’s fair to him may not be fair to me. It’s a business as far as I’m concerned. I have been running that business for almost 30 years now, and to me it is a business. The Altoona Curve is part of that business; they’ve been a good part of the business for a long time.
“I believe that (McEacharn is) entitled to his opinion, and obviously we have our own opinion. I’m sorry that he feels that way, but it’s a free country, and he’s entitled to say what he wants to say.”
In addition to revenue from the hotel tax, the Curve would also contribute to the fund, which is expected to grow over time.
Related stories: Curve: Ballpark Improvements Needed to Keep Team in Altoona.