On The Coast: Minor League Baseball Team Pushes For Stadium Upgrades (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
Time now to go out "On the Coast," and get the latest from the eastern shore of Maryland and coastal Delaware. And what's happening right now, or will be pretty soon, is baseball.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:23
Salisbury, Maryland is home to the Delmarva Shorebirds, a minor league team affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles. But the team's stadium is aging and needs several million dollars in repairs and upgrades. Bryan Russo caught up with the Shorebirds' general manager, Chris Bitters, to talk about the proposed renovations and who would pay for them.

MR. CHRIS BITTERS

00:00:41
You know, there's structural stuff that a 20-year-old facility needs to have, just to be structurally sound for another 20 years. There's player related stuff, field, field lights, things to keep compliant with minor league baseball, major league baseball, just things again, in that world, that age over 20 years and need to be updated moving forward. And then there's the third bucket, which is the most visible stuff, which is the fan amenity stuff. Things like the 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.

MR. CHRIS BITTERS

00:01:18
And just being able to enjoy, you know, families with young children, if they're bored after a couple of innings, being able to go ahead out and watch the game for a little bit from a drink well or something out in left field. And being able to make the ballpark a lot more mobile in that regards. I mean, you know, things like a video board and some technology updates that fans kind of expect nowadays when you go to a minor league or a major league game. And just some of the enhancements there with being able to provide updated statistics and stuff through technology that's available now, that we just currently don't have.

MR. BRYAN RUSSO

00:01:45
When you look around at other stadiums in the league, you know, and we've talked about before where, you know, the capacity here, about 5,000 seats and spectators, that's about somewhere in the middle in your league, as far as capacity goes. Where does this stadium rank as far as what's offered to people coming to the ballpark, as well as the quality of the field as per other teams in the league?

BITTERS

00:02:12
Yeah, I mean, 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 we're looking to, you know, as the report indicated, that, potentially, would 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 fan that's just sitting 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, they're long term solutions that need to be addressed.

BITTERS

00:02:40
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. And again, I just said the fan amenity stuff that, again, Purdue Stadium's been a great stadium for, now going into 19, next year 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, you know, would keep us kind of current and where we need to be for another 20 years.

RUSSO

00:03:09
Of course, there's the consideration that you might get all of it or you might get none of it. Or somewhere in between. Talk a little bit about what's being discussed here in the early, and obviously, we are in the early innings of this conversation, about how it's gonna be paid for. Private money, public money, a combination of both, perhaps.

BITTERS

00:03:26
Yeah, I mean, that's really the discussion that's gonna start, here moving forward, not that, you know, the first step was to, as with anything, is to analyze what you have and what somebody would recommend you need, going forward, to be a viable facility. So that part has taken place. It's taken time to get to there, get that study done, and, you know, so here's what's been put out on the table. And so now, really, the next step is to sit down with the partners involved in the facility and say, OK, you know, let's reevaluate those recommendations and develop some ideas and plans on how to move that forward. To this point, that's not happened.

BITTERS

00:03:58
That's kind of the next step. The first step was getting the study done, you know, similar to taking your car to a mechanic. You take it in, say, hey, what needs to get done so I can -- my car's gonna last me for another period of time? You know, we're not looking to tear down the stadium and rebuild or anything like that. We're just looking to take the car to the mechanic, figure out what needs to happen, and then be able to assess it and develop that plan to move forward.

RUSSO

00:04:21
Now, of course, as you assess the future of this facility and what it's gonna look like moving forward, the lease between the stadium and this organization is up next year. And there's been concerns, sort of, and maybe they're warranted, maybe they're not, that if these improvement aren't made to this stadium, that the franchise might consider leaving this area. Is there a possibility that the Delmarva Shorebirds may leave this region?

BITTERS

00:04:48
Yeah, I mean, that's not been our goal or our intent. You know, we've started this process rolling for a period of time now, obviously, to get to this study. You know, our goal, 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 in Wicomico that draws people in from the entire region. Delaware, Virginia, and our goal is to stay here. We're not necessarily looking to relocate or anything like that.

BITTERS

00:05:17
And that's why we initiated this process well in advance of our lease expiring. Everybody at the table understanding that hey, we want to make sure there's this great asset for the community. Our goal is to stay here, and that's where we're at for now.

SHEIR

00:05:32
That was Chris Bitters, the General Manager of the Delmarva Shorebirds, speaking with WAMU's Bryan Russo.
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