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A friendly warning to Harrisburg's extensive mayfly population: Your days are numbered.
Ever since Commerce Bank Park opened in 1987, the winged intruders have been a constant presence at Harrisburg Senators games. Located on City Island and surrounded by the Susquehanna River, the brightly lit stadium attracts hordes of mayflies each evening. While harmless, dealing with zapped bugs raining down from the sky can at times hamper the enjoyment of watching Minor League Baseball.
But thanks to a two-pronged city and state-funded renovation project, this problem will soon be a thing of the past. As part of the more extensive second phase of the renovations, a roof will be added to Commerce Bank Park in time for the 2010 season.
"Whenever I talk to community groups about all of our upcoming improvements, I get the most applause when I mention the new roof," said Senators general manager Randy Whitaker. "Anywhere else, a stadium will have a roof because of heat or rain. But for us, it's because of the mayflies."
Another huge upgrade scheduled for 2010 involves the seating area. Currently, with the exception of 800 box seats, the entire facility consists of bleachers. However, all of these will ripped out and replaced with individual chair-back seats. The improvements together will result in an almost entirely new ballpark experience.
This is not to say that Senators fans won't have plenty to look forward to during the upcoming '09 season. While perhaps not as dramatic as a new roof and totally revamped seating area, construction is now underway on a variety of improvements scheduled to be ready in time for Opening Day.
"Right now the concentration is from foul pole to foul pole," Whitaker said. "A boardwalk is being constructed along the perimeter of the outfield, which I think will be a tremendous addition. It will be like a little bit of the shore in central Pa., while providing fans with a view of the playing field we've never been able to offer before."
Fans will be able to access the boardwalk via a plaza entrance leading to a brand-new Operations Building that will include a new box office, concession stand, souvenir store, public restroom and staff offices. But the crown jewel of the outfield area renovations is the addition of a state-of-the-art scoreboard.
"Our old board was one of the last of its kind, and outdated almost from the day it was installed," Whitaker said. "Now we have a 21-foot x 56-foot LED scoreboard in right field, as well as two new LED ribbon boards in left and right-center."
Whitaker paused in order to make some quick calculations.
"All told, that's about 2,400 square feet of new video boards. I believe that will be the most in all of Minor League Baseball, at least until some other team decides to outdo us in 2010.
The video board and other corresponding technical upgrades should provide a tremendous boost to the Senators' overall game presentation.
"We used to just have a wired video camera, so it couldn't be moved around the stadium. Now, we'll be able to put together video presentations and pre-produced intros while also providing fans a much better view of what is happening on the field," Whitaker added.
These technological advancements will be combined with a stepped-up promotional schedule, featuring a renewed emphasis on giveaway items.
"Giveaways are very important in central Pa.," Whitaker said. "We cut down the quantity last year, and the fans let us hear about it. So now, we're going in the opposite direction."
A particularly apropos item is set to be distributed May 22 -- fans will receive flyswatters upon entering the stadium. These swatters will certainly be helpful in the fight against mayflies, but not nearly as helpful as a roof.
Benjamin Hill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.