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On the Coast: Minor League Baseball Team Pushes for Stadium Upgrades

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The Delmarva Shorebirds' stadium desperately needs renovations.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/rrenomeron/9714554214/
The Delmarva Shorebirds' stadium desperately needs renovations.

The Delmarva Shorebirds, the minor league baseball team in Salisbury, Md., say their stadium is in need of millions of dollars in upgrades. The push for those improvements comes as the team talks with local leaders about whether to renew the stadium’s lease and stay in Wicomico County.

Chris Bitters, the Shorebirds' general manager, says there’s “structural” work that needs to be done on the facility, as well as the addition of new amenities that ballpark visitors expect these days.

“There’s player-related stuff, field lights, things that keep us compliant with Minor League Baseball…just things that age over 20 years and need to be updated moving forwards," Bitters says. "And then there’s the most visible stuff, which is the fan amenity stuff, things like a video board, potentially some new seating options, potentially some sort of wraparound concourse decking that would make the ballpark very portable with regards to the fans and being able to view the game from different vantage points.”

How does the stadium compare to other ballparks?

Chris Bitters: I would say that in general, you know, we’re probably in the middle of the road. I mean there are some stadiums that are a little newer than us that have some of the amenities that…would potentially be recommendations for this facility, both from an entertainment standpoint and a player standpoint.

You know, the field out there, we make it nice and green and it looks pretty to the casual fans that just sit in the seats, but it has some drainage issues and other things that need to be addressed that are more than a short-term fix. There are long-term solutions that need to be addressed, wall padding for the players, things that are required through our relationship with Major League and Minor League Baseball that we need to investigate and look to address. Purdue Stadium has been a great stadium for now going into 20 years. It’s lived well, and really what the report is indicating is that these possible upgrades that they’re proposing to be considered would keep us kind of current and where we need to be for another 20 years.

Who would pay for these upgrades?

Chris Bitters: That’s really the discussion that’s going to start here moving forward. The first step was to analyze what you have and what somebody would recommend you need moving forward to be a viable facility. So that part has taken place. And so now really the next step is to sit down with the partners involved in the facility and say, "OK, let’s reevaluate those recommendations and develop some ideas and plans on how to do that moving forward." To this point, that’s not happened.

Would the Shorebirds leave the Delmarva Peninsula?

Chris Bitters: That’s not been our goal or intent. We love it here. We have a great relationship and a partnership with Wicomico County. We get tremendous fan support for our market size, and we feel like we’re a great family destination for entertainment here that draws people in from the entire region. We’re not necessarily looking to relocate or anything like that and that’s why we initiated that process well in advance of our lease expiring. Our goal is to stay here and that’s where we’re at for now.

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