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October 15, 2010

Centennial Field Fixes Could Top $10 Million

Centennial 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

Really, we need to add more parking to meet MLB standards? Way to be forward looking MLB.

A $20M project spread across a variety of taxes over the next 10 years is very doable. It could start with a several county TIF District, include meals and room tax increase, contribution from team owner and UVM, and so on. The impact would be minimal for all. However, this should only happen if UVM is ready to turn the complex over to an authority ready, willing and able to manage it properly. Keep the politics out of it and make it the competition for the Essex Fair Grounds (aka, the most profitable non-profit in Vermont). All good things come from competition.

Would UVM bring it's baseball program back now? Seems odd for them to built it, so someone else can come. But that's what they said in "Field of Dreams", right?

This issue needs to be continually on the forefront.
It would possibly help if the Mayor and CAO of Burlington resigned

Definitely need to improve the parking! I was lucky when I lived on Colchester Ave and could walk to the game - but to have to wait in traffic to go on a shuttle slowed down by traqffic and then have to wait in more traffic is, well, enough to prevent me from going to half as many games as I used to.

So, Pecor Incorporated wasts to keep the team in town to either make money or use it as a tax dodge from his ferry business, and the biggest thing on the table is more taxes?? Where is the NO NEW TAXES tea bagger Kurt Wright on this dip into my pocket??? I know it isnt Camden yards, but it seems like something on a similar scale... I dont remember paying extra taxes for Lowes to put up a store, why should I pay extra taxes for Ray to do business in town??? Come on Republicans... grow a set... a consistent is cool, but welfare for Ray is a little unnecessary and excessive...

I don't understand why Leopold can't just open up the magic "cash pool" checkbook that apparently has no limit, no restrictions and does not impact the taxes in Burlington (according to him at least). If BT was worth 17 mil, baseball has to be worth even more right?


As you get into the ~$20MM range, why not consider a new ballpark altogether? I love the history and nostalgia of Centennial, but add another $10MM and you are within the range of a brand new park. I think this would be the perfect attraction to anchor on the waterfront.

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