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More ballpark upgrade tales, this time from Altoona

PNG Field, Altoona Curve

We’ve been following how MiLB teams are handling the MLB-mandated facility updates, as teams figure how to physically address the new requirements as well as how to pay for them. Today’s story: the Altoona Curve (Double-A Northeast) and PNG Field.

For the Curve, the challenges are less daunting than many teams are facing: with some teams estimating (publicly, anyway) that they’ll need upwards of $15 million to address facility upgrades, GM Derek Martin says the team is looking at a lower price tag. The major new features the team needs to add to PNG Field, he said. was the addition of women’s dressing space, kitchen and dining areas for both clubhouses. Overall, he estimated, the ballpark already meets 85 percent of the new facility specs.

But that’s just an estimate, and until MLB performs a ballpark audit this year and the team meets with an architect, they won’t know exactly what sort of costs are in store. The timing of upgrades will also depend on those meetings; while all must be completed by the 2025 season (lighting upgrades, because of its expense, is tied to that later deadline), others are due next season and in 2024.

And the price tag of the upgrades will also depend on those upgrades. Some teams have clauses in their leases calling for their landlords–i.e., municipalities like cities and counties–maintain ballparks to MLB specs. Other municipalities will be able to tap into capital-improvement funds to address upgrade costs as well.

In Pennsylvania, the state may end up picking up some or all of the cost, with some lawmakers saying such funding would be appropriate for the six Double-A and Triple-A teams, per the Altoona Mirror:

“I go back to the days when it was called Blair County Ballpark, and there was a plaque on the front of the stadium that said ‘paid for by taxpayers,’”Gregory said. “That was people investing in Blair County, from a tourism perspective and a business perspective. … It raised the profile of Blair County all across the commonwealth and across the country. When you invest like that, you have to expect there will be future needs.

“If it is for the sake of moving Blair County Ballpark (PNG Field) forward, for the sake of credibility, visibility, business, tourism, I believe the commonwealth and me in particular, I believe that in the House we would investigate every and all possibilities to make sure that that investment continues forward.”

Not every state will be eager to pay for upgrades, and many may balk at paying for upgrades to privately owned ballparks. So the challenges continue.

Photo courtesy Altoona Curve.

RELATED STORIES: MiLB facility issues continue; In Myrtle Beach, new MiLB specs forcing hard decisions; The bill always comes due: MiLB in 2021

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