Renovations to Avista Stadium are underway and will continue on an uninterrupted course until opening day 2025, the hard deadline set by Major League Baseball to upgrade the venue where the Spokane Indians Baseball Club plays, says Chris Duff, the club’s president.
Between now and April 2025, a total of $16.8 million in renovations will be completed in order to satisfy Major League Baseball-mandated requirements. On top of that, the club hopes to raise funds for an additional $6 million in upgrades, says Duff.
Improvements to the facility, located on the western edge of Spokane Valley, at 602 N. Havana, began shortly after the end of the 2023 minor league season.
The club received a waiver for missing upgrades for the opening day 2023 season deadline and has requested a second waiver for items that won't be completed by opening day of 2024. If the waiver isn't granted, the club could be subject to fines, or as a repeat offender, it could also be subject to having its license revoked, he says.
“But right now, we feel good about where we are and the progress that we’re making,” says Duff.
As part of the club's opening day 2024 waiver application, it submitted plans showing the items that will be completed by April 5, 2024, and the projects that will take place during the season in hopes the MLB will see the progress at the stadium, he says.
Before opening day, the primary focus is the expansion of the two clubhouse buildings behind the first and second bases and the installation of the stadium’s field lights, he says.
“We’re on schedule,” he says. “We’ve got great partners in place, and I feel like we’re making really good progress.”
Lydig Construction Inc., of Spokane, has been chosen as the contractor for the project, and Spokane-based ALSC Architects PS has been selected to design the stadium’s master plan.
In October 2021, ALSC drafted a four-phase approach to tackle the renovation project, however, rather than being phased, it's now just one continuous project, says Duff.
He says, because the construction window is so tight and the minor league season occurs during the prime construction months, some projects had to be shifted around to enable Lydig to work year-round.
“We’re starting, and we’re just going to get this thing done,” says Duff.
As reported by the Journal, in 2020, MLB didn’t renew its contract with the Minor League Baseball Association. The Spokane Indians organization had been a member of the Northwest League before 2020, which had a contract with Minor League Baseball. The expired contract eliminated those two entities and allowed MLB to negotiate directly with minor-league teams.
In the process, the MLB severed relationships with over 40 minor league teams nationwide, shrinking its minor league network from 162 teams to 120. As part of the Spokane Indians license and 10-year agreement, the MLB also handed down a series of requirements that minor-league clubs must complete within a window of time or risk losing their license with the MLB.
After reviewing the new contract, the club began to work with Spokane County—the facility’s owners—and ALSC Architects to determine whether the team should make renovations to the existing structure or search for a potential new facility.
In terms of cost and location, the club felt it was better to make improvements to the existing venue.
Initially, the baseball club pitched it would need $22.8 million to fund upgrades to the facility, including MLB-mandated requirements and upgraded fan amenities. So far, the club has raised $16.8 million, which Duff anticipates will be enough to fund and satisfy the MLB requirements.
Spokane County has pledged an initial $5.5 million toward the project, the city of Spokane Valley will contribute $2.5 million, and $5.8 million will come from the Washington state ballpark bonding budget. Private contributions will add $3 million to the project.
The other improvements that Duff and the club hope to execute with additional funds include a 360-degree outfield-elevated concourse and a new entrance gate at the southwest corner of the park.
“Our goal is still $22.8 million," says Duff, "We have our eyes set on getting to that number.”
While the figure seems high compared to some other parks, such as the $5 million in improvements planned for the Pasco, Washington, Gesa Stadium, home of the Tri-City Dust Devils Baseball Club, as reported by the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business, it is still within the lower end of costs that clubs across the country are incurring to retain their license and contract with the MLB.
The Modesto Nuts, an affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, is working in partnership with the city of Modesto, California, to build a new stadium, dubbed the Great Valley Coliseum, with an estimated cost of up to $122 million, Ball Park Digest reports. In Everett, Washington, the Everett AquaSox Baseball Club is looking to build an $80 million ballpark to replace its 1947-built Funko Field facility, reports Ball Park Digest.
The MLB-mandated upgrades are centered on player health and wellness, says Duff. The clubhouses, which contain the players’ locker rooms and coaches’ offices, are about 600 square feet and are shared by 35 to 45 professional players, he says. The renovation of both clubhouses will add 1,000 square feet of space to the visiting team’s clubhouse located behind first base and about 1,500 square feet of additional space to the home team's clubhouse located behind third base, says Duff.
With the extra room, other amenities will be added to the buildings, including coaches’ offices, a manager’s office, female facilities, and a commissary.
Previously, players would eat their meals in temporary tents outside the clubhouses, says Duff.
The third project the club is focused on completing before opening day is the installation of new field lights. The upgraded lighting system will be purchased from Musco Sports Lighting, a major player in the professional sports and amateur sports industry, says Duff. The current lighting system at Avista Stadium requires a 10- to 15-minute warm-up once the lights have been turned on, while the new lights will turn on instantaneously, he says.
“Not only will it be a much better product for the players on the field, it’ll be a better product for TV broadcast, and it’s also going to be a fan amenity,” he says.
When an action happens in the game, such as a home run or an Indians win, for example, the club will have the ability to coordinate the lighting system with music, says Duff. The club also anticipates being able to use the lighting system to enhance the fireworks show.
“We wanted to do something that the fans would notice and add to their enjoyment of the game as well,” he says.
Projects that will be completed during the baseball season include a new grounds crew building, a new workout building, and a new video board, says Duff.
The new scoreboard will be a full-color display that will allow for video replays, promotional ads, and other elements, as well as an interactive fan component, he says.
The club also will invest in cameras for in-house production and to broadcast Indians games on MiLB TV, he says.
The current workout room for athletes is just under 300 square feet, says Duff. Once the new grounds crew building is built, the old building will be demolished to create space for a new 8,000-square-foot workout building that will house two to three indoor batting cages, an 800-square-foot workout and weight room, and an additional female facility, he says.
The new batting cages will have 12-foot-high nets and a garage door that can be opened during games to welcome fans in and be part of the kids' zone, where youths will be allowed to take swings.
The last component of the required improvements will happen on the field and after the 2024 season ends in September, says Duff.
Those projects include a padded outfield wall, new dugouts, safety netting from foul pole to foul pole, and a new field, he says.
Spokane-based SPVV Landscape Architects will redesign the field, says Duff. The project will level the ground and provide proper field drainage, he says.
The final projects that will take place from September until opening day 2025 have a small window of time to complete before winter sets in, says Duff.
“We’ve got to get in there as quickly as possible, but there’s also a lot of work to take out the existing materials,” he says. “It’s probably three to four month’s worth of work that we are condensing down to a couple of months.”
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