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New Modesto Nuts ballpark proposed to city, county

Local business and civic leaders are proposing a new downtown multiuse venue that would house the Modesto Nuts (Low-A West), USL soccer and other local events.

The new facility–dubbed the Great Valley Coliseum–would replace John Thurman Field as home of the Nuts. It’s no secret that Thurman Field doesn’t meet the new MiLB facility specs imposed on the sport after the MLB takeover. Rather than embark on a Thurman Field renovation–which would likely have a limited economic impact generated by the west Modesto facility–the team and business leaders decided to work toward a new downtown facility, one capable of hosting a wider variety of events than just Minor League Baseball. With USL potentially in the mix as well and the trend toward downtown ballparks, a facility also potentially spurring associated downtown development became the goal of the group.

We talked with Lynn Dickerson, recently retiring as Modesto’s CEO of Gallo Center for the Arts and a member of the community/business group, about the decision-making process that led to the current ballpark plan. She attributed the effort as a quality-of-life issue.

“Those of us in the private sector working on this see it would be a game-changing event in our community, making Modesto and Stanislaus County a better place to live,” she said. “We see the need to keep youth in town, settling down and raise families. We also see it as a way to attract talent. That’s one of the issues we struggle with, to attract people to live and move here.”

The new development would be located in downtown Modesto, on a four-block parcel between 10th and 12th and D and F streets. That location is seen as anchoring the southern end of the 10th Street corridor, which includes Modesto’s convention center, 10th Street Place, Gallo Center for the Arts and Tuolumne River Regional Park.

The financing plan should be familiar to anyone following sports-facilities financing plans over the years. The total cost for the ballpark is estimated between $85 million to $122 million. There would be private financing up to $10 million, with Modesto and Stanislaus County covering the remaining cost by issuing bonds. Those 30-year bonds would be backed by increased tax revenues generated by the ballpark and the associated development. General funds would not be part of the funding mix. Early estimates from Kosmont Companies indicate that these increased tax revenues would more than pay back the bonds and potentially return revenues back to general city and county funds.

(Why a study from Kosmont Companies instead one of the firms with more experience in ballpark market research? Kosmont Companies has done work in the region before and is very familiar to local officials.)

Volume, of course, is partly key to the projection that revenues will exceed bond repayment. That’s why baseball is merely part of the mix. Besides MiLB, Dickerson and the work group see a 300-date calendar that includes USL men and women’s soccer matches, high-school football, various fairs, graduations, a farmers market, Christmas markets, concerts, and potentially an ice skating rink. Great Valley Coliseum would be owned by the city and county, and managed by the Seattle Mariners, part of the Nuts ownership.

As envisioned now, capacities would range between 6,560 for baseball games and soccer matches (including suites, group spaces, outdoor bar, berm and party deck), and 11,500 for concerts and other events with attendees on the field. There is the obligatory 360-degree concourse as well as a slew of group and social spaces, concourse drink rails and suites. The conceptual renderings come from Tom Larimer of Atlanta’s Larimer Design.

Before any final proposal was presented to Modesto and Stanislaus County, a 14-person community and business leaders group met to lay the groundwork for the ballpark. That group includes local leaders like Boyett Petroleum President Dale Boyett, Dickerson, Opportunity Stanislaus CEO David White, Nuts GM Zach Brockman, and Evan Porges, president of the Porges Family Foundation and Porges Properties.

“This would not be going anywhere without the participation of these business leaders,” Dickerson said. “We’re under the gun. We don’t want to lose our team, but we could without a new facility.

“We’ve done a lot in six months. Had this not started with the grassroots initiative, this would not be going anywhere.”

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