A proposed Washington State ballpark bonding budget includes $24 million for new and upgraded ballparks for the Everett AquaSox, Tri-City Dust Devils, Spokane Indians and Tacoma Rainiers.
Three of the four teams are in the High-A Northwest League; the Rainiers are in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League as the top affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.
With three of the six teams in the Northwest League located in Washington State, meeting the new MiLB facility specs will be key to maintaining that league. When you look at the status of all six teams and ballparks, there’s reason to be concerned. The Hillsboro Hops have proposed a new ballpark, but that $120 million facility could house any MiLB level with a little work; remember, Hillsboro is a suburb of Portland, a former Triple-A market. Discussion of a new $85-million Eugene Emeralds ballpark at a fairgrounds site has stalled after an initial funding mechanism was approved in September. The Spokane Indians are coming close to reaching financial viability for the team’s plan to upgrade Avista Stadium. (We should also note the Low-A Cal League is facing some similar issues in terms of facilities, but it doesn’t yet appear to arise to an existential crisis.) Meanwhile, there are plenty of Eastern markets and ballparks that could easily meet MiLB standards with a little elbow grease.
The bill also covers ballpark improvements for the summer collegiate West Coast League’s Bellingham Bells and Cowlitz Black Bears, whose facility is in Longview, WA, covering some 11 communities in all.
In Everett, the plan is replacing Funko Field, which opened in 1947, with a new $80-million facility after study of both replacing and renovating the existing ballpark; this bill includes $7.4 million from the state. (That price tag comes from a Christmas list approach to planning, where everyone throws what they want to see–including a public park and an outdoor amphitheater–into the mix.) From the Everett Herald:
Rep. Julio Cortes, D-Everett, appreciated Senate budget writers funded the full amount sought by the city at this stage. Ultimately, the city wants a place not only for the AquaSox to play in that complies with the new requirements but also has amenities for the community.
“I am really excited it is moving forward,” he said. “This is going to be fun when it opens.”
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