BRADENTON -- McKechnie Field looks mighty spiffy after those $10 million renovations completed in time for last year's spring training. Now those renovations have put Bradenton in the running for Best Spring Training City.
USA Today sports editor Bob Nightengale selected 20 cities and their ballparks for a USA Today Travel 10 Best poll with Bradenton and its McKechnie Field making the list. Now it's up to people to vote for which is the best.
Baseball fans have until noon March 24 to cast votes at the USA Today Travel site, www.10best.com/awards/travel/best-spring-training-facility.
Out of the 20 selected for the competition, 11 come from Florida including Sarasota's Ed Smith Stadium, the Baltimore Orioles spring home that also had its own renovation. Ed Smith is currently in fourth place while Tampa Bay Rays' spring home at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte is in the lead.
McKechnie's renovation gave it more than 2,000 seats, more shaded areas, a 19,000-square-foot boardwalk, tiki bar and a reworked fan plaza to earn it both the Best Ballpark Renovation designation from Ballpark Digest and Design Excellence Award from Florida Planning and Zoning Association. After all the renovations, fans might never guess this stadium -- built in 1923 -- is the oldest spring training stadium.
A record 93,433 fans turned out last year to see the renovated ballpark. With the Pittsburgh Pirates following up on a winning season, more are expected at this year's spring training.
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter@ImYourChuck.