The Reading Fightin Phils (Double-A Northeast) say they need extensive renovations to FirstEnergy Stadium to maintain their status in Minor League Baseball and an affiliation with team owner Philadelphia Phillies.
The struggle is real: built in 1951, First Energy Stadium is one of the most charming venues in all of baseball and offers a great fan experience between the outfield pool, the Hot Dog Vendor Guy and a wide variety of food and drink offerings. And by and large the Fightin’ Phils have regularly upgraded the fan facilities over the year to keep up with the state of the art.
But the facility improvements specified by Major League Baseball focus on the player side of the equation: larger clubhouses, new kitchen facilities and workout spaces, a women’s changing room, upgraded lighting standards, and more. Some teams have ballparks that meet the standards already, some are handling relatively small changes internally, and others are looking at some major renovations. This is the case in Myrtle Beach, where local officials are looking at spending up to $15 million in TicketReturn.com Field to meet the new specs.
That same number is being used in Reading, where local officials are facing the same issue. From the Morning Call:
“Currently, FirstEnergy Stadium does not meet those requirements,” [Fightin Phils GM Scott] Hunsicker said. “There are many other stadiums that don’t currently, as well. We have until 2023 to meet those requirements. If we don’t meet those requirements by 2023 or thereafter, it is possible MLB could terminate our license in Reading and it could give that license to someone else in another city.”….
“We have done many projects over the years here at the ballpark with the partnership of the state of Pennsylvania and the city of Reading,” he said. “We are embarking on those conversations now to continue to develop those relationships and solve this problem.”
State Rep. Manuel Guzman Jr. told the Reading Eagle that required “modernizations” could cost up to $15 million, and that he, state Rep. Mark Rozzi, Reading Mayor Eddie Moran and others are trying to find city, state and federal funding for the project.
A complicating factor here: the Fightin Phils are owned by parent Philadelphia Phillies. There already is considerable grumbling in MiLB ownership circles that MLB-owned teams are being treated differently by MLB on the facilities front. Would MLB actually revoke the license of an MLB-owned MiLB team? Guess we will find out in 2023, when facility upgrades are set to be in place.