Pittsburgh Pirates to donate $75,000 toward Palmetto ball fields

skennedy@bradenton.comFebruary 15, 2013 

MANATEE -- The Pittsburgh Pirates are planning to donate $75,000 to help pay for construction of new Little League ball fields in Palmetto.

A check is slated to be presented to Manatee County Commission Chairman Larry Bustle prior to the Pirates' opening spring training game on Feb. 24, according to county emails sent among several parties.

Bustle indicated he would have to cancel his participation in the Rubonia Mardi Gras Parade the same day in order to be on hand to accept the donation at 12:30 p.m. at McKechnie Field, the emails said.

The Pirates are celebrating a $10 million renovation of McKechnie Field, their spring training home and the home field of their minor league team, the Bradenton Marauders.

Upgrades at the stadium include new seats, a 19,000-square-foot wooden boardwalk with tiki bar, covered bleacher seats, centerfield concession stand and a luxury, two-level party deck in left field.

"You guys are going to kill me, but I think we are going to tie it into our first game on 2/24," wrote Trevor Gooby, director of Florida operations, in attempting to settle on a suitable date.

"I believe many of the county officials are going to be there, as they are going to be part of the grand reopening celebration," he added.

Gooby, when reached Thursday, declined comment on the donation.

Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant could not be reached for comment late Thursday.

Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston said he didn't know such a donation was in the offing, but added, "Great, wonderful, sounds good. The Pirates are becoming more and more a part of Bradenton, and now, Manatee County."

"It makes sense they will do that, and help them step up."

Construction on the long-delayed ballfields may begin as soon as April after the Manatee County Commission on Tuesday approved an agreement to legally transfer money for the project.

Before they could proceed with construction on the $3.3 million project at Blackstone Park, they needed an interlocal agreement setting out terms for transfer of $800,000 that the city of Palmetto was contributing.

The commission unanimously approved the agreement.

Assuming the necessary permits arrive in a timely manner, construction is slated to begin as soon as April, with completion expected in the fall of 2014, county officials have said.

Palmetto's contribution to the project will be paired with county park impact fees to pay for construction. Several years ago, the Little League ball fields were sold to make way for a new elementary school.

Plans call for three lighted, regulation-sized fields at the park at 2112 14th Ave. W., according to county documents.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.

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