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Ballpark Updates -- Helena and Brevard County

Helena Independent Record:


Brewers make pitch


Paul Fetz, general manager of the Helena Brewers minor-league baseball team, asked city commissioners to consider a bond issue to fund $1.6 million in improvements to Kindrick-Legion Field. In exchange, the organization is willing to consider a long-term lease agreement.


Fetz said he?s loved Helena since he moved the team here from Medicine Hat, Alberta, and he wants to stay. Improvements are needed at the field to improve the atmosphere for fans and upgrade the playing surface ? the condition of which could determine whether the team?s parent club sends top prospects or ?project? players to the Queen City.


He said the Major League Brewers have had concerns with the divots and rocks on the playing field, and any player who ruins his career with an injury related to the field?s condition could have grounds for a lawsuit.


The park is the oldest in the Pioneer League, and today?s fans desire greater amenities at stadiums.


?We want to accommodate our community and our fans a lot better,? Fetz said.


?I?m excited to be in this town and looking forward to what?s to come,? he added.


Fetz didn?t get much positive response from the commission.


?I?m queasy with the concept of public funding to enhance what is essentially a private, for-profit entity,? Peura said.


Other commissioners didn?t weigh in on the ball park.

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  • 1 month later...

I'll add a little to the ballpark thread here, especially in light of wibadgers comment.

Having been going to games here for 20 + years I've seen some very nice improvements to the park. The most recent in the late 1990's when it was brought up to MLB minor league standards. Being involved with hosting players I have definately heard the comments and complaints concerning the quality of the infield and the lighting needs to be improved. I am not sure about the rest of what the owners are proposing. This is an old ballpark, but in my opinion, a great place to see a game. It is small and intimate and you are right on the playing field. In todays world of cookie cutter parks and retro stadiums (nice in their own way) its nice to go to a game and sit in a park with wooden bleachers ( the reserved seats were "upgraded" and now sport folding seats from the Oakland A's renovation ) wooden beams and a minimalist pressbox and scoreboard.. The restrooms are roomy, modern and clean and the consessions are easy to get to. Too many of these parks have been torn down or are neglected/unsused and when they are gone thats it. I really think that the management here is missing a promotional oppertunity with this park, just my opinion. Maybe its me growing up in Chicago and going to old Comisky and Wrigley but I have been to well over 100 pro ball ballparks and this is one of my favorites. I just hope that the ownership doesnt change the character of this park if they are successful in getting the money they are asking for. I dont see any chance that a new park will be built here.

If you havent been here for a game I highly reccommend it, or any of the Pioneer Leagure parks for that matter. Its just baseball at a very pure and simple level and the kids play their asses off.

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  • 3 months later...

Taxpayers still have their say towards financing, which is iffy at best:


Kindrick Legion Field

Two years ago, one of the old, 200-foot-tall light poles at this historic ballpark cracked under the stress of Helena Valley winds and fell into the outfield fence. If a sturdy metal fence post hadn't stopped its fall, the pole would have fallen onto the field during an American Legion baseball game.

A few years before, Legion General Manager Joe Underkofler watched a grounder take a bad hop on the rocky infield and break a player's jaw.

Helena Brewers General Manager Paul Fetz shook his head as he showed reporters the team's workout area - an exercise bike and a small weight machine are squeezed into a corner, a few feet from players' lockers.

The project to upgrade Helena's historic ball park, built around 1940, is primarily a matter of performing some needed housekeeping, though Fetz noted the work will improve fans' experience and make the park safer for players.

"Nowadays in the baseball business, and even in Legion ball … you want the people who come to enjoy themselves, that's a bottom line," Fetz said.

The professional ball club has outgrown its clubhouse, the poor playing surface hardens and sprouts numerous rocks through the summer, an uneven outfield sometimes causes injuries, the wooden baseline bleachers are nearing the end of their useful lives, and the ballpark lights are dim, inefficient and mounted on old wooden poles.

Officials want to rework the field, providing a softer, more manageable surface. The plans call for new bleachers - though the charming, historic grandstands will be left in place - and new metal light poles with energy-efficient lamps that will provide more light for players and fans and cut down on light pollution to the surrounding area.

The home clubhouse will be renovated and expanded, and parking improved with reused road millings, which cost less than asphalt surfacing.

"These improvements will maintain the character of the park but bring it up to standards that will be better for everybody," Underkofler said. "It's going to be good for a long time to come, and I'd say that really for the whole (parks) project."

A timeline hasn't been set, but if voters approve the bond, some work at the ball field could begin in the next year.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Voters approved out in Helena, nice:


Planned work at Helena's historic Kindrick Legion Field, built about 1940, will include needed maintenance and new amenities to improve the experiences of both fans and Helena Brewers and American Legion ballplayers.

The dry, rocky infield will be replaced with a smoother playing surface. New bleachers will be added along the baselines, but the historic grandstands will remain. The home clubhouse will be renovated and expanded.

New ballpark lights will cut energy costs and reduce light pollution in the surrounding area. They'll also be mounted on metal poles, eliminating the danger of a pole falling onto the field. An existing wooden pole fell into the outfield fence a few years ago.

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  • 4 weeks later...

The Manatees will benefit from improvements going into Space Coast Stadium for the Nationals, no doubt a reason the Brewers felt comfortable signing their Player Development Agreement through the 2010 season with Brevard County:




Stadium goes back to fundamentals



It's been years since Space Coast Stadium's hand-operated scoreboard celebrated home runs by launching a blinking baseball satellite and plumes of smoke.

But the Washington Nationals have a more fundamental concern with the old-fashioned and sometimes faulty equipment: timely and reliable score keeping.

Brevard County last week pitched in another $1 million to make stadium improvements requested by the team before spring training begins in February. The new money comes on top of $2.8 million spent last year.

Most noticeable to fans could be the installation of a $109,000 electronic scoreboard with a video monitor to replace the retro display, which for years hasn't performed its jazzier functions, such as the billowing smoke.

"These days, fans like to have more immediate information than what a hand-operated board can provide," said Michael Shapiro, the team's senior vice president of business affairs. "Our manual operation sometimes lagged behind."

But Shapiro said the team's priority would be making less flashy repairs, such as the drainage, fencing and lighting needed to achieve major league standards and improve the fan experience.

Team officials believed the spring training home they took over in 2005 had fallen into disrepair, referring to it last year as "a sponge."

"I think we've taken some major steps toward putting that facility back in good shape," Shapiro said.

A makeover begun last year featured dark blue seats with red railings that replaced the faded teal remnants of the stadium's original 1994 spring training tenant, the Florida Marlins.

This year, the most costly change will probably be replacement of field lighting to meet league standards, Assistant County Manager Stockton Whitten said.

"We may have to change the entire lighting system," he said.

Under a lease that expires in 2017, the team pays for stadium operations and maintenance while the county is responsible for capital improvements.

The county typically budgets $500,000 a year for that purpose, but must maintain a $2 million fund. The budget also includes $765,000 to repay bonds that will be retired in 2013.

The money comes from taxes paid by tourists on lodgings -- not local property taxes -- that are specifically earmarked for the stadium and promotional activities.

The proposed new scoreboard is only slightly more expensive than the reported $90,000 spent on the original, which attempted to blend low-tech baseball tradition and space themes with a design resembling a launch facility.

In addition to providing instantaneous updates on hits, runs and errors, baseball executives said electronic boards with monitors can broaden the stadiums' appeal for community events.

"With a scoreboard today, it's not so much the baseball game side of house, it's what you're trying to accomplish with your stadium," said Buck Rogers, general manager of the Brevard County Manatees, a Class A team that shares the stadium.

For example, he said, some teams host movie nights at their fields.

One resident who won't miss the existing scoreboard is 64-year-old John Sheppard of Melbourne, who for more than two years had the job of hanging numbered cards on its pegs from a catwalk exposed to the elements.

The retired postal worker once bought clothespins to keep the numbers from blowing away in high March winds, and heard heckles on the rare occasion he made an error.

"It was hectic up there, running back and forth putting them cards up," said Sheppard, who gave up his outfield perch a couple of seasons ago. "I'd go for an electronic scoreboard. I think it would be beneficial for both the stadium and the spectators."

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  • 5 months later...

Link while active, text follows:


Extra innings for Brewers in Helena

By LARRY KLINE - Helena Independent Record

Professional ballplayers will be on the base paths at historic Kindrick Legion Field for at least the next decade, and perhaps through 2028.


In response to the overwhelming support of Helena voters, who last year approved a $1.2 million renovation project at the field as part of a larger parks-improvement bond, Helena Brewers owner D.G. Elmore on Monday agreed to a 10-year contract, with two possible five-year extensions, to keep the minor-league team in the Queen City.


"We're very appreciative of that (support)," Elmore told commissioners Monday night. "And we look forward to 20 great years in town. Hopefully we can bring a few championships back here."


It's the first long-term baseball contract Helena's been a part of in years, and it represents a change in fortunes since 2000, when the city's old minor-league baseball team left.


Elmore brought the Brewers here in 2002, signing a series of two-year deals between the team and the city. The most recent contract was set to expire this fall.


Last year, team officials told city officials they would consider a long-term contract if Helena supported improvements at the field, which were needed to bring the stadium in compliance with Major League Baseball rules.


"If we don't meet the standards, Major League Baseball can come in and take the team away from us," Elmore said after the meeting.


The stadium's rocky infield and uneven outfield have caused injuries for both minor-league players and the American Legion youth clubs that play there in the summer. The home clubhouse is too small, the wooden baseline bleachers need to be replaced, and a few years ago one of the wooden light poles cracked and nearly fell onto the field.


The voter-approved funding package will fix those problems, with a complete resurfacing of the playing field set for this fall and other projects in the works.


"With the improvements and how well-received we are by the city, it's an easy decision to stay in Helena," Elmore said.


The team will pay utility costs and special tax assessments of up to $17,000 next year, up from $15,000 per year in the old contract. The city pays any utility costs above the contracted amount. City Attorney Dave Nielsen said the city has had to pay about $3,500 over the past three years.


City Manager Tim Burton said the improvements to Kindrick Legion, coupled with the team's decision to stay in Helena for at least the next decade, add to the sense of vitality in Helena's downtown.


"Helena loves that old ball park," Burton said.


Eliza Wiley, Helena Independent Record Photo Editor

Helena Brewers owner D.G. Elmore, left, and president/general manager Paul Fetz talk at Kindrick Field in preparation for their meeting Monday night with the city on whether to renew their Helena contract for 10 years.



NOTE: Keep in mind that this does not ensure that the Brewers will be affiliated with Helena for the next decade, but you would think chances are very good now -- Jim (Mass Haas)

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