New MLB standards cause mounting costs for Toyota field maintenance

MADISON – At last week’s Madison City Council meeting, the council approved $14,681.25 for Phase 1 of a renovation of Toyota Field. The money is coming out of the Multi-Use Venue Maintenance Fund Checking account and is going towards an evaporative cooler, a closed mesh window screen, the installation of fencing for a lockable MLB storage area, and batting cage lighting. These improvements are the first in three total phases to upgrade Toyota Field to meet new MLB standards for minor league stadiums. The first two phases are expected to cost a total of $150,000.

Phase 2 is slated to include an expansion of the weight room, the replacement of drain gates, and new padding on a concrete wall surrounding the field before the 2024 season. Director of Development Services Mary Beth Broeren said in a work session prior to the city council meeting that there is potential for the latter project to be reduced in cost thanks to a possible partnership between a sponsor and Ballcorps.

Phase 3 is a significantly larger scale project and will consist of an entirely new clubhouse and foundation improvements before the 2025 season. The current plan for the new clubhouse intends to once again comply with updated MLB standards for square footage, locker rooms, offices, and a commissary in the visiting clubhouse. The plan places the new clubhouse in the outfield plaza in the area currently occupied by the bullpen. According to Broeren, at the work session prior to the council meeting, the project is currently estimated to cost $6 million, a relatively low cost compared to the $10 and $20 million some cities are spending for a new clubhouse.

“We don’t love that we have to do this for a brand new facility. It’s beyond frustrating, but we can afford to do the $6 million,” Broeren stated at the work session, where she went into detail about the improvements.

At the request of Councilwoman Maura Wroblewski, Broeren promised to inquire into sharing the $6 million cost with the Trash Pandas’ major league affiliate, the Los Angeles Angels as well as looking into the approach other Alabama minor league and Southern League teams are taking to building new clubhouses. The city of Madison is, however, on a tight timeline. The deadline for the clubhouse project is the start of the 2025 season in April 2025, and as it currently stands, the city has to yet to even solicit bids for the project.

While Phases 1 and 2 work continues, Phase 3 work can be expected to be seen in resolutions at future council meetings.

Following the approval of funds for Phase 1 Toyota Field renovations at the Monday, August 28 council meeting, the city council approved a soliciting of bids for repairs to Main Street Café after a fire caused a temporary closure of the historic restaurant in downtown Madison in June.

Council president Ranae Bartlett presented a resolution for the reappointment of Presiding Municipal Judge Thomas Parker, Jr. and Associate Municipal Judge Aaron Ryan. The resolution was passed by the council securing the two judges two year terms beginning September 13, 2023.

Kyser Greenway improvements received $2,800 paid to Mullins, LLC for legal descriptions, and an estimated $360,000 from gas tax funds from the 2024 fiscal year were approved by the council to be used in a Transportation Plan to construct a bridge on Wall Triana Highway.

The latter will widen the bridge north of the Mill Road intersection.

“This is one of our only three remaining load-rated bridges in the city. So, if we can get that replaced that would be good for a myriad of reasons. It’d also support possible future improvements on Wall Triana,” Michael Johnson, city engineer, explained.

The next city council meeting will be held September 11 at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 100 Hughes Road in Madison.

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