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Reading budgeting $16M in FirstEnergy Stadium upgrades

Reading Fightin PhilsThe Reading Fightin Phils (Double-A East) and local government officials are budgeting $16 million in FirstEnergy Stadium upgrades to meet the new MLB specs for Minor League Baseball ballparks.

The Fightin Phils are the latest team to unveil plans to meeting the new MiLB ballpark specs, which include upgrading lighting standards, expanded clubhouses and workout facilities, kitchen areas, dressing rooms for female umps and employees, larger dugouts, additional batting cages and more. Some teams are in good shape in meeting these new specs, such as the Altoona Curve; other teams are looking at major and expensive upgrades. That’s the case with FirstEnergy Stadium upgrades–not a surprise for a 70-year-old ballpark.

The solution in Reading: Add a totally new building in center/center-right field that will contain many of the new features. The cost has been tallied at $16 million, but a funding plan has not been finalized. From WFMZ-TV:

“It’s not like anybody did anything wrong,” said Scott Hunsicker, general manager of the Reading Fightin Phils. “It’s just that the game has evolved over the last, since our last renovation having to have a commissary with a dining area and a bigger weight room cause everybody lifts all day every day now.”

The heavy lifting is now being done in the form of funding the estimated $16 million project – hoping to break ground April of next year. The team, county and city are pushing forward with plans to provide $3 million each towards it, and they’re hoping the state will step in.

“Hopefully we can go to the state after the vote on Monday at the city and after the vote at the county on Thursday and, beyond just words, we can say we have commitments,” Hunsicker said.

As we noted in our Altoona coverage, there’s been some sentiment in Pennsylvania for the state to pick up some of the costs. We’ll see if lawmakers follow through on that sentiment. Teams have until 2025 for all the ballpark upgrades to be completed, but some are due for completion as soon as 2023.

RELATED STORIES: More ballpark upgrade tales, this time from Altoona; 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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