Local officials hoping to keep minor league baseball at Centennial Field learned this week just what it might cost to upgrade the 106-year-old ballpark.
The study found that the stadium, built in 1906, is in solid shape for its age, but to meet the standards established by Major League Baseball, drastic improvements are needed in stadium seating and clubhouse facilities, along with major field and lighting fixes, new fences and dugouts and more parking.
The mid-range cost of those fixes is $6.6 to $9.2 million, but if the committee decides to tackle some additional fixes, the cost could easily increase to a range of $14 to $19 million. That latter figure includes a parking garage that is estimated to cost $4 to $6 million.
The must-fix costs range from $3.3 to $4.1 million, and Engineering Ventures (EV), which conducted the study, said these are improvements that need to be done within a year to satisfy MLB's concerns.
Brian Pine, the assistant director of baseball -- er, housing -- at Burlington's Community and Economic Development Office, tells Seven Days that the long-term costs of keeping the stadium viable for 25 years are more likely $10 to $12 million, and not all of those costs would be borne by the public. In some cases, he believes private sponsorships and fundraising could defray the improvement costs.
"A new score board lends itself to a private donor opportunity. Building a parking garage is not feasible, but there is planning under way on a parking structure for both downtown and hill employees on land behind the Sheraton that could be used for game parking," said Pine.
In a memo to various stakeholders, Pine noted that the engineering report found that "the stadium is in surprisingly good shape given its advanced age. The steel has superficial wear and tear but nothing major. The structure is safe for continued use, but it has reached the point where repairs are needed in order to get another 25 years of safe use as a ballpark."
At a meeting yesterday, officials from UVM, the Vermont Lake Monsters and EV agreed to meet again and refine the scope of work with an eye toward making Centennial Field a viable ballpark for minor league baseball for the next 25 years, noted Pine.
An ad hoc regional committee that met earlier this summer and fall will then be reconvened to discuss various funding options, Pine added.
The recent player development contract that will see the Vermont Lake Monsters become an affiliate of the Oakland A's rather than the Washington Nationals means little in whether or not the league will allow a team to play at Centennial. For years, the MLB has granted a series of one-year waivers to permit teams to play there.
The report stems from a City Council resolution earlier this year urging a collaborative effort to determine not just how much improvements would cost, but how they could be funded.
A small group has been meeting at City Hall to discuss those funding options, which include scratch-off baseball-themed lottery tickets; legislative action to create a special assessment district spanning more than one community or county; a special stadium tax on restaurants, hotels and rental cars; lease financing with team and concession rents; gross receipts; ticket surcharges; federal infrastructure improvement; parking fees; and naming rights.
That group includes Kyle Bostwick of the Vermont Lake Monsters; Richard Cate from the University of Vermont; Tom Torti, executive director of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce; Sen. Dick Mazza (D-Chittenden/Grand Isle); Paul Bruhn, Preservation Trust of Vermont; Al Voegele, Colchester Town Manager; and Sandy Miller, South Burlington's City Manager. Pine of CEDO facilitated the meetings.
Staffers from Vermont's congressional delegation also took part in the meetings, but not as committee members.
Download the full report: Download EV Report