Good news for baseball fans in Bradenton: the Pittsburgh Pirates are contributing $2.5 million to renovations of McKechnie Field, their spring training home located at the intersection of 17th Avenue West and 9th Street West, not far from exit 220 on I-75. The initial estimate called for a $9 million renovation back in late 2011, and it sought to improve the classic ballpark design by improving seating around the grandstand and press box, adding more seats near the Tiki Bar and Pirate’s Cove, and building a Walk of Fame to honor the baseball greats of Bradenton.
McKechnie Field has been home to Major League Baseball teams during spring training since 1923. Before the Pirates and today’s Grapefruit League, the St. Louis Cardinals and the former Braves of Milwaukee and Boston trained in Bradenton. The current renovation work is expected to be complete just in time for the 2013 Spring Training season and the ballpark’s 90th anniversary.
Vincent Safuto of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported back in August that the City of Bradenton had approved borrowing $7.5 million for the project, but when the price tag increased to almost $10 million, the Pittsburgh Pirates agreed to pitch in with the rest. The cost is going up because of additional features that directly benefit the Pirates, such as a batting cage, improved food service equipment and new concession stands located behind the grandstands.
In the end, the project will benefit not only the Pirates, the Minor League Bradenton Marauders and baseball fans, but also the community and the homeowners who own properties near McKechnie Field. This is something that holds true for neighborhoods surrounding other Spring Training MLB teams around Florida and the Grapefruit League. Once renovations are complete, Bradenton may be able to host qualifier games for the World Baseball Classic, an event that attracts many international visitors.