As they step up their pursuit of UPMC Park upgrades, the Erie SeaWolves (Class AA; Eastern League) are making the case that renovations are necessary to keep the facility viable.
On Monday, it was noted here that the SeaWolves–along with UPMC Park owner Erie Events–had hired the Indiana-based firm Jones Petrie Rafinski to perform concept design work for potential upgrades at the ballpark. This comes as the two sides participate in the process of securing a $12 million state grant that will help fund the improvements.
If that project does move forward, the SeaWolves will look to enhance several aspects of the facility, with a particular focus on fan amenities like concessions, merchandise areas, and other features. In explaining what the team intends, SeaWolves president Greg Coleman says that the ballpark improvements are necessary to make sure that UPMC Park is a viable Double-A facility over the long run.
UPMC Park dates back to 1995, when it opened as Jerry Uht Park and at a time where the SeaWolves were members of the Short Season A New York-Penn League. According to Coleman, enhancing some of the ballpark’s features would allow the facility to be more on par with other Eastern League venues, and at the same time enable it to host more events on a year-round basis. More from GoErie.com:
“As a result, many amenities that are standard in Double-A baseball stadiums, and were standard when the park opened in 1995, don’t exist in Erie. We expect improvements will make the ballpark more fan-friendly for the duration of the baseball season and create spaces that will be used to bring people downtown on a year-round basis.”
For example, Coleman said, “Erie is currently the only Eastern League city without an indoor merchandise store in its ballpark. The restrooms lack hot water, and there are no indoor spaces that accommodate more than 20 people — both significant issues given the climate.
“Even the video board, which is becoming more difficult and expensive to maintain, is nearing the end of its life span,” Coleman said of the outfield feature, which was added in 2006. “By addressing these types of shortcomings, we can better position the facility to host major events like the Eastern League All-Star Game. In short, we want to ensure UPMC Park will be a quality family destination for many years to come.”
It was several years after the ballpark opened that the SeaWolves joined the Eastern League, with 1999 being the club’s first season at the Double-A level. The SeaWolves and Events Erie split the cost of the $10,000 design contract with Jones Petrie Rafinski.
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