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Goodbye Hangar, hello soccer pitch

Under a plan to be unveiled this week, the former home of the Lancaster JetHawks (High A; California League) will be renovated from a ballpark to a soccer pitch to house a new Antelope Valley USL League One team.

Lancaster Municipal Stadium, better known as The Hangar, opened for the 1996 MiLB season as home of the JetHawks. Located in suburban Los Angeles, it was billed as a state-of-the-art facility when it opened, featuring luxury suites and a high-tech scoreboard. But the ballpark’s tenure as home of the JetHawks ended in 2020, when the team was contracted as part of MLB’s overhaul of Minor League Baseball and elimination of 42 teams, with Lancaster replaced in the Cal League lineup by the Fresno Grizzlies.

Since then Lancaster officials have sought potential tenants for the facility. Baseball was still being played here in the form of community college and Pecos League ball, but the crowds were not strong.

That will change, as the city will spend $10 million on alterations (with the team owner, John Smelzer, contributing $1 million more) on the ballpark to convert it to a soccer stadium for the 2025 season. The old ballpark grandstand will stay, while the playing field will be expanded in left field to accommodate the longer soccer pitch. New seating in the old outfield will expand capacity to 5,300.

When the 2020 blip occurred with the elimination of 42 teams, many expected to see conversions like this without affiliated ball in the mix. But three years later and we’ve not seen a rush of conversions. A group seeking to expand pro cricket was looking to invest in ballpark conversions, but at the end of the day ended up converting only one ballpark–a former indy facility in Grand Prairie, Texas–to accommodate the larger cricket pitch. Other former MiLB venues were altered to accommodate both baseball and soccer, but by and large summer-collegiate ball has replaced affiliated ball in these former MiLB venues.

We covered the conversion and what the city is expecting out of the investment on our Soccer Stadium Digest site.

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