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Daytona Pledging $4M in Jackie Robinson Ballpark Upgrades

Hoping to help the Daytona Tortugas (High A; Florida State League) avoid contraction, the City of Daytona will pledge $4 million in improvements to Jackie Robinson Ballpark

Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball officials have been negotiating the next Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA) to replace the current PBA, which expires at the end of the 2020 season. MLB initially proposed the contraction of 42 teams, along with league realignments that include new Triple-A and Single-A circuits (in the name of lessened travel), new facilities standards (covering player facilities, including clubhouses, weight rooms and support spaces like kitchens and lounges), and a player-development arrangement that calls for rookies to spend time at MLB camps and not in entry-level leagues, with an additional year of service under team control.

A proposed list of 42 teams slated for contraction by way of MLB’s proposal surfaced in November, and it included the Tortugas. In an effort to help the team avoid contraction and solidify its future for 2021 and beyond, the city will pledge a commitment to make $4 million in upgrades to Jackie Robinson Ballpark. On Wednesday, city commissioners gave the go-ahead for city manager Jim Chisholm to write a letter by Friday that outlines the pledge. In order to avoid having city taxpayers foot the entire bill, Daytona officials could seek out funding sources such as grants. More from The Daytona Beach News-Journal:

Chisholm said he’s been asked to send a letter to baseball leaders by Friday indicating the city’s commitment to make several improvements to the city-owned ballpark that’s been on City Island since 1914. City commissioners said they’re OK with Chisholm penning the letter, but three of them said they want to see a copy of it before it’s sent off.

Chisholm said he met with Tortugas officials Tuesday, and they said they want a new clubhouse, increased lighting on the field of Major League quality, two new batting cages that are more like climate-controlled tunnels, and improvements to the grandstands and concession area. The Tortugas lease the historic ballpark overlooking the Halifax River from the city….

Chisholm said the city wouldn’t have to commit to spending $4 million right away. The improvements could be made as the city would line up the funding.

Chisholm is also hopeful taxpayers wouldn’t get stuck with the whole bill. He said the city could seek grants from the Daytona Beach Racing & Recreational Facilities District, which shares proceeds from the spring and fall Turkey Run car shows.

MLB officials have said recently that a previous list of contracted teams is now outdated, and that teams once slated to be contracted are still alive. One confirmed example is the Lowell Spinners, who were initially on the contraction list but now would survive as a Low-A team. It remains to be seen how this pledge would affect the Tortugas, but Daytona officials are working on a plan that they hope will help the team avoid contraction, if the elimination of existing MiLB teams does move forward in some fashion.

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