While a proposal to renovate NBT Bank Stadium is on the table, some Onondaga County officials want to explore a new downtown ballpark for the Syracuse Chiefs (Class AAA; International League).
Onondaga County and the New York Mets, owner of the Chiefs, are floating a proposal to renovate NBT Bank Stadium. The $25 to $30 million project would lead to several changes, including a reduction in seating capacity–from 11,000 to 7,000–but a greater array of amenities, such as a tiered bar area in left field, a wraparound concourse, group picnic terraces in right field, and other features. That proposal is not finalized, as the county and the Mets are seeking state funding for the project.
In light of that proposal, debate has surfaced over whether NBT Bank Stadium is economically obsolete and if the area would better benefit from a new downtown Syracuse ballpark. A Facebook post earlier this month by Onondaga County Legislator Tom Buckel made the case for a new downtown ballpark, claiming that the original decision to construct NBT Bank Stadium on the northern edge of Syracuse was a mistake. His post raises the possibility of converting NBT Bank Stadium into a dirt track, while building a new downtown ballpark for the Chiefs.
Other county officials, however, contend that they are focused on the renovation. Legislature chairman Ryan McMahon and Deputy County Executive Bill Fisher are among those who have zeroed in on a potential renovation, contending that a higher cost and greater uncertainty about state funding are among the issues surrounding a new downtown ballpark. More from Syracuse.com:
A new stadium would probably cost $70 million to $100 million, Fisher said. There is no funding identified for such an expensive project, he said.
County officials hope the state will provide the majority of the money for renovations, which could cost $25 million or $30 million, McMahon said. There is no indication the state would back a project costing more than that, he said.
As it is, county officials anticipate borrowing about $8 million for the renovation. Other revenue sources, such as naming rights, could provide a few million more, McMahon said.
“Who’s going to pay the extra 35 or 40 million dollars” for a new ballpark, McMahon said. “The state hasn’t offered to pay that kind of money.”
NBT Bank Stadium first opened in 1997 and was built for $28 million on a site next to its predecessor, MacArthur Stadium. The club is currently committed to NBT Bank Stadium through the 2025 season, but county officials hope that a renovation can ensure a longer stay.
While the Mets already own the Chiefs, the team is currently playing the final games of its player development contract with the Washington Nationals. Once that affiliation agreement expires, the Chiefs will become an affiliate of the Mets and that switch is expected to coincide with a change to a new name.
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