VIDEO/PHOTOS: McKechnie Field Renovations
The Pittsburgh Pirates' spring training stadium has been renovated.
By the looks of the hundreds of fans walking along the new boardwalk and chugging beer at the outfield tiki bar, the $7.5 million McKechnie Field renovation is a success.
The Pittsburgh Pirates had their first opportunity to play ball in the stadium during their annual Black and Gold scrimmage in February, and that meant that it was also the first time fans could get in some game action, too.
The stadium features more seating—up 2,000 seats for a total of 8,500—plus more shaded seating, bleachers with backs, outfield ledge seating, a barbecue area, and the list goes on.
Almost everyone that you speak to around the stadium cannot get enough of the new 19,000-square-foot boardwalk that wraps around the outfield. It's a favorite of Pirates President Frank Coonelly.
"I stood up there the other day when we were open, and stood right on line down the first-base line overlooking the bullpen," Coonelly told Patch. "You got the batting tunnels, agility field, the half-field behind you and the bullpen right below you—just spectacular. There are so many things you can see, so I think that's going to be a place that's going to be four-or-five deep."
Bradenton tourism officials say that the Pirates are doing their part to spread the word to fans in western Pennsylvania about the new features at McKechnie. As part of the renovation package, the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau also used $400,000 in promotions and tourism advertising for the Pittsburgh market, as well.
"I think the Pirates organization has really created an awareness of the renovations done in the Pittsburgh market to prove that the Pittsburgh feeder market has grown to our top 10 feeder market as far as destinations," said Elliott Falcione, executive director of the convention and visitors bureau, "and we expect Pittsburgh to rise, I'm going to say, probably in the top 5 in the next three years."
It shouldn't take too much to get folks from Pittsburgh down to Florida, Coonelly joked.
"Giving weather reports hourly back in Pittsburgh—it's 80 degrees here while it's snowing there," he joked. "We do a lot of promotion of Bradenton, and the Bradenton folks here do a lot of promotion in Pittsburgh. And we encourage people to come down. There are a lot of Pittsburghers coming down. They start as people who come down in the month of March and watch spring training games. Then, they move to six-month livers here in Bradenton. Then, they stay here year-round."
The players weren't thinking about the renovations too much until they arrived inside and were pleased to see their new outdoor office, Coonelly said.
"They were blown away. Every player I talked to—and I made sure I talked to several of them—they said you guys did a great job, this is fabulous, thank you very much."
Yet, the stadium, built in 1923 has kept its historic feel.
"It's a throwback environment," Falcione said. "You really don't need to like baseball to enjoy this environment."
Coonelly was excited to see fans inside of the renovated ballpark, too, as a soft opening before the first home game after the scrimmage.
"It's a great feeling to see local folks in here for the Black and Gold game, enjoying the amenities of the ballpark," Coonelly said. "Everyone I talked to really enjoyed the facility, love the changes and love that we were able to keep the historic, old-time ballpark feel of McKechnie Field."
This is McKechnie Field's 90th anniversary.
Here are each of the new features, courtesy of the Pirates:
• This marks the third time McKechnie Field has experienced renovations since becoming the Spring Training home of the Pirates in 1969. Renovations were made to upgrade the facility in 1991-93 as well as in 2006, but this is the most extensive renovation since 1993.
• The renovations to McKechnie Field added a total of 2,000 seats and now seats 8,500, up from the previous 6,500.
• McKechnie Field is now tied for the fourth-largest ballpark in terms of seating capacity in the Grapefruit League, up from 13th last season.
• Local and regional companies accounted for more than 80 percent of the business and total workers involved in the renovation project. Of the 39 businesses involved, 12 are from Manatee County and 11 are from Sarasota County.
• Of the 224 employees working on the project, 95 percent are in-state workers with 87 percent coming from the Tampa Bay region. The direct impact is substantial as 63 percent of workers are from businesses in Manatee and Sarasota.
• The design has transformed McKechnie into a 360-degree ballpark with the addition of the outfield boardwalk.
• Infield seating sections are all reserved seating and were completely updated with new, more comfortable seats as traditional baseball style flip-up seats have been installed.
• Permanent roofing replaced the temporary shade-providing structures above the infield seating along the first- and third-base lines. The new roofing is actually the same structure that was removed in 2011. The roofing was sent off-site for repairs and was reinstalled as part of the current renovations.
• There are a total of 3,516 total shaded seats now throughout McKechnie Field with the addition of 570 shaded seats in the new left-field bleacher area. The pre-renovation total was 2,946 covered seats.
• There have been 42 palm trees installed as part of the renovations, 18 in the Fan Plaza and 24 in the outfield area.
• The scoreboard which used to be elevated in left-center is now set into the left-field wall. This enhances the vintage old-school ballpark feel at McKechnie. Two auxiliary scoreboards are being added on the first- and third-base side roofs so that fans in the outfield can see the score as well.
• Work on infrastructure began in August, and the balance of the project began in September, following the close of the Bradenton Marauders season.
• The infield seating area has been expanded as 146 seats were added to the sections along both the first- and third-base lines for a total of 292 seats.
• Permanent overhead roofing structures were added to the seating areas to allow for shade and protection from the rain.
• All physical seats in the sections covered by the roofs have been replaced with new seats allowing for easing access for fans, and totals were kept exactly the same as what those sections previously held.
• The Fan Plaza behind the main grandstand now features a newly constructed concession stand with 20 points of sale and a newly remodeled restroom area.
• The new Fan Plaza has allowed for another set of restrooms to be added on the first-base side and the existing first- and third-base facilities to be expanded.
o Third-Base Men: 14 urinals, 4 stalls
o Third-Base Women: 12 stalls
o First-Base Side Men: 15 urinals, 5 stalls (combined)
o First-Base Side Women: 61 stalls (combined)
• The Yuengling Plaza Bar provides plenty of beverage options to McKechnie Field guests, including Yuengling beers and select cocktails, and it is the one place in the ballpark where fans can order the famous yard of beer.
• There will be three permanent concession stands in the Fan Plaza, including a grill for standard fair (burgers, fries, chicken sandwiches), a hot dog station with every necessary condiment to dress a Kayem hot dog, and a pizza station. Papa John's returns this year as the official pizza of McKechnie Field.
• Additionally, there will be more than a dozen portable carts set up in the plaza selling various specialties, including Italian sausages, Cold Stone Creamery ice cream, and the fan favorite Bucco Grill, which features tiki-style barbecue items.
• The Plaza is now expanded as the batting cages near the Pirates clubhouse have been removed and relocated to beyond the right-field wall.
• The Fan Plaza between the main grandstand and the concession area now features a seating area that includes tables, lounge chairs and palm trees.
• The centerpiece of the renovations is the new 19,000-square-foot wooden boardwalk that stands 12 feet off the ground and circumnavigates the entire outfield area to improve the fan experience and offer a view of the field from every vantage point, as well as the bullpen area. On the left-field patio are the 4Topps tables—10 tables right along the railing in front of the bleachers. Each table has four ultra-comfortable mesh swivel chairs. Each are being sold as a dual-season package for Spring Training and the Marauders season.
• The boardwalk is accessible by ramp in left field, stairs or elevator in right.
• The Left Field Party Deck (LFPD) is an upscale two-tier group area with each tier available to be rented individually or as a whole. Each tier is shaded and accommodates 40 guests with total accommodations of 80 tickets. The area features premium food and beverage options. Food selections can be purchased as a full-party spread or from an extensive a la carte menu to mix and match selections. Groups on the LFPD will receive an exclusive bartender and attendant.
• The left-field bleachers seat 570, include seatbacks for comfort and are covered by the same awnings that were removed from the first- and third-base seating areas.
• The renovations have added a concession stand structure in centerfield that includes concessions windows on both sides for easy accessibility for fans coming from either side of the boardwalk. Fans can pick up a bucket of beer, snag a hot dog or pulled pork sandwich, or enjoy a create-your-own nachos station.
• The addition of a new Tiki Bar located along the boardwalk in right center field is open to all fans and will provide a unique, fun and relaxing atmosphere during games. It can seat 60 fans and features a full liquor menu and numerous draft and craft beer selections from Gold Coast Eagle Distributing.
• The Boardwalk Barbeque Area is the open portion of the boardwalk in right field that offers a scenic view of the ballpark and will be used for group (25 or more) picnics. It can accommodate up to 200 guests. Picnics will include an all-you-can-eat menu of hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled chicken, coleslaw, pasta salad and beverages (sweet tea, water and lemonade).
• The home and visiting bullpens have been relocated from along the first- and third-base lines to the outfield area beyond the boardwalk, and fans will now be able to view the areas from the boardwalk.
• In addition, the batting cages were relocated to the outfield area and now feature four tunnels as opposed to the previous cages located near the Fan Plaza that housed two tunnels.
• A new agility drills area has been added in right field, beyond the boardwalk, and will allow for a convenient and safe area for players to take part in drills and routine stretching.
• The half field (an auxiliary regulation size infield used for infield instruction) has been completely redone and relocated behind centerfield to make room for the creation of a grass agility training area and the new batting cages.
Single-game tickets can be purchased in person at the ticket office, online at pirates.com or by calling 877-893-2827. Ticket prices vary by advanced sale versus day-of-game purchases, with advance-sale tickets available at a $2 savings.
The McKechnie Field ticket office is open Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. On the day of games, the ticket office will open at 9 a.m. and close 30 minutes after the final out.
This article originally appeared on the Bradenton Patch.
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