It's the most historic venue in spring training, a place where Roberto Clemente worked his way into shape, Henry Aaron honed his craft and the exciting 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates jelled as a team. A 2013 renovation, complete with new outfield seating and Tiki bar, brings McKecknie Field to a comfort level equal to or surpassing other Grapefruit League facilities, helping both the Pirates and Class A Bradenton Marauders set attendance records in 2013. For both aesthetic and business reasons, McKechnie Field is the choice as the Best Ballpark Renovation (Over $1 Million) of 2013 by Ballpark Digest, the leading guide to baseball and ballparks on the Internet.
"There is so much history at McKechnie Field, and a visit there for a Pirates spring-training game is truly a pilgrimage," said Kevin Reichard, publisher of Ballpark Digest. "But historically, it's not been one of the most inviting venues in the Grapefruit League. The renovations really added to fan comfort - and the fans responded by coming out in droves."
The changes to McKechnie Field, as designed by Fawley|Bryant Architects, included:
- New seating in the grandstand. The old seating was a challenge, to say the least.
- An elevated wraparound concourse enhancing fan views of the bullpens, batting cages, half-field warm-up area and agility field.
- A new center-field boardwalk area with Tiki bar, outfield open seating decks, covered private party boxes, restrooms and concessions.
- New roofs over the three main seating areas behind home plate and down each line.
- New covered outfield bleachers, bringing the total seating capacity to 8,500.
- New fan appreciation area with concession stands behind the grandstand.
- Convenient, expanded restrooms locations
The total cost of the renovations, as constructed by NDC Construction, was $10 million.
McKechnie Field opened in 1923 as the spring home of the St. Louis Cardinals and was renovated in 1993 and 2007. The Boston/Milwaukee Braves trained there in 1938-1940 and 1948-1962. The Pirates have been training in Bradenton since 1969.
"Fans see a dramatically enhanced fan experience, all while maintaining that old-time ballpark charm that we all love about McKechnie Field," said Pirates Chairman Bob Nutting. "This project speaks to the strength of our partnership with Bradenton and Manatee County. It is a partnership of that, I believe, is the strongest in Major League Baseball thanks to the local leadership of Mayor Poston, the City Council, the County Commissioners, Tourist Development Council, Bradenton Downtown Development Authority and, most importantly, the support of the Bradenton community. The continued support of the local community is the real reason why we are about to embark on our 46th season here in Bradenton."
"The design is totally about community and the fan experience as it builds on McKechnie's great history while recognizing that everything in life changes and it is critical to respond to these changes," commented Richard Fawley, President, Fawley|Bryant. "The primary design goal was to engage fans of all ages with a varied and rewarding experience each time they visit the park to ensure baseball continues to be an integral part of our community and the nation's fabric and culture."
"The renovations kept the best parts of McKechnie Field - the intimate atmosphere - while adding more comfort and accessibility," Reichard said. "It a great day when a historic venue like McKechnie Field can get a substantial upgrade and still retain its unique nature. That's the very nature of a successful ballpark renovation."
ABOUT THE BALLPARK DIGEST AWARDS
Each year Ballpark Digest honors noteworthy accomplishments in the baseball world, whether it be Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, independent baseball, summer-collegiate baseball or college baseball. Readers are asked to submit nominations for awards in specific categories; Ballpark Digest editors then go though the submissions (numbering some 300 pages of documentation last year). The awards cover both individual accomplishments as well as team accomplishments. This is the fifth season for the Ballpark Digest Awards. A complete listing of Ballpark Digest Awards can be found at www.ballparkdigest.com/awards.
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The leading Website covering the culture and business of baseball since its inception in 2002, Ballpark Digest (www.ballparkdigest.com) has been called an "indispensable" guide to baseball and ballparks by The New York Times; it's been used as a source by publications and Websites ranging from The Wall Street Journal to Epicurious.com. August Publications is a publisher based in Middleton, Wis. Besides Ballpark Digest, August Publications websites include SpringTrainingOnline.com, ArenaDigest.com, YellowstoneInsider.com and NewWest.net.
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This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.