With Boyce Cox Field in a state of decline, the Bristol Pirates (Rookie; Appalachian League) will likely require a major renovation or a new ballpark to ensure their long-term viability.
The Pirates play home games at Boyce Cox Field, also known as DeVault Stadium, a facility on the Virginia side of the twin cities of Bristol, VA and Bristol, TN that opened in 1969. In recent years, the ballpark’s deteriorating condition has posed some challenges for Bristol Baseball Inc.–concrete bleachers behind home plate and along the first-base line became unsafe to the point of being shut down, and bumps in the outfield have hampered the playing field.
The Pirates will remain an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates through next season, though nothing is assured beyond that date. Meanwhile, there are uncertainties about which path team and local officials could explore for keeping the franchise in the area: a renovation to Boyce Cox Field is not being ruled out, and there has been some discussion about the possibility of a new ballpark on the Tennessee side of Bristol. Still, with many questions unanswered, Mahlon Luttrell, the president and general manager of Bristol Baseball Inc., acknowledges that there are fears about the long-term outlook for the franchise, especially if facility issues are left unaddressed. More from the Bristol Herald Courier:
Here is a scary thought: There is no rule that Bristol must have professional baseball. If something isn’t done to upgrade or replace DeVault Stadium, which has hosted 50 consecutive seasons of Appalachian League action, that possibility concerns Luttrell, and has for more than a decade.
“Always. Absolutely,” Luttrell said. “The facilities in general, the last four facility standard reviews I have been involved with – it happens every three years – we are non-compliant in many ways and that is not good.”…
It isn’t just the closed seats that should concern local baseball fans. There are numerous other issues that must be addressed to keep up with the times, including a bumpy outfield that Luttrell describes being like a “mogul ski slope.”
“There is a lot of nice things about it, but it is just old and tired,” Luttrell said. “There is just a lot of updating that needs to occur. To put this facility in extremely good hands and updated, it would probably cost about $5.5 million to put it where it needs to be…
In recent years, there has been a flux of facility upgrades in the Appalachian League, with Pulaski’s Motor Mile Field at Calfee Park and Johnson City’s TVA Credit Union Ballpark being examples of how ballpark renovations can bolster the long-term outlook of a franchise. Of course, a new ballpark on the Tennessee side could stand to be a boon to Minor League Baseball in Bristol, but whether a new facility or major renovation can be secured remains to be seen.