Pirates plan $6.5M improvements at McKechnie Field, Pirate City

Pirates plan more improvements at McKechnie Field

myoung@bradenton.comMay 14, 2014 

BRADENTON -- While other cities tend to get demands for Major League Baseball spring training facility improvements from the teams -- sometimes accompanied by threats of leaving the city -- the Pittsburgh Pirates continue to highlight their commitment to Bradenton with plans to invest another $6.5 million in McKechnie Field and Pirate City.

The Pirates plan calls for replacing the existing clubhouse and expanding the agility field at McKechnie Field, and building a new strength facility at Pirate City.

The city would invest $275,000 into the project from the public works budget.

The Bradenton City Council approved continued negotiations with the team over the proposals Wednesday.

"I think we are the frontrunners in the way we provide spring training and showcase the uniqueness of our partnership with the Pirates in the significant amount of money the Pirates invest into our city," said Bradenton City Clerk Carl Callahan, who has been negotiating with the Pirates about the improvements.

The project will be "fast-tracked," Callahan said, because the Pirates want it completed before 2015 spring training games in March.

Callahan praised the team's commitment to the community and charitable organizations, as well as working with the city's master plan vision to transform the area around McKechnie Field into an entertainment district.

"The Pirates are continuing to invest in Bradenton because of our long-standing relationship with the community and the vital, year-round training and rehabilitation assets that have been developed by our partnership with the city," Pirates President Frank Coonelly said in a news release. "Our Major League and Minor League players deserve first-class facilities and the new home clubhouse at McKechnie Field and performance center at Pirate City will be among the best in the industry."

The work at McKechnie would require an expansion into the city's solid waste yard.

"We had a lot of discussion on how that would have an impact, but solid waste operations will not be affected," Callahan said. "If we can accommodate the expansion without affecting solid waste adversely, then we certainly want to do that."

The old clubhouse would need improvements within five years and the city would have been required to address the costs, Callahan said.

"They want to build this and it's a real opportunity for us to make this happen," he said.

Public Works Director Claude Tankersley confirmed his department's solid waste operational budget could absorb the impact.

Ward 2 Councilman Gene Brown said the project has an added environmental bonus.

"Even though we are shrinking the yard, we are improving the yard by helping with the washout," he said.

Recent improvements at McKechnie Field include the addition of lights in 2008 and a major expansion and new fan amenities in 2013.

Mayor Wayne Poston said McKechnie Field improvements have always been well-received by the public. The fact the city would have had to pay for the improvements on its own in a few years "cements our partnership with the Pirates," he said. "It's a working relationship that is really good and is only getting better."

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him Twitter @urbanmark2014.

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