Dayton, Montgomery County and the owners of the Dayton Dragons are considering pitching in millions of dollars to help renovate Day Air Ballpark, which officials say would be the first major capital improvements to the stadium the city and the county have paid for since it opened 22 years ago.
The minor league baseball team faces penalties because some elements of the stadium do not meet Major League Baseball requirements, the city’s finance director said.
“It has been 21, 22 years since we built that stadium, so it is time for some significant capital improvements,” said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein.
Baseball has been one of the biggest draws to downtown Dayton since the stadium opened in the spring of 2000, and city officials say the property has some major maintenance needs. The city owns the baseball stadium and the plaza at its western entrance, as well as the land beneath the facility.
The Dayton Dragons have a long-term lease that last year was extended for up to three more decades.
The Dayton City Commission on Wednesday had the first reading of a batch of legislation that would authorize the city to issue more than $52 million in bonds to help finance major capital projects and equipment purchases.
Some of the proposed investments would improve, replace or add water mains, bikeways, parking lots and public facilities.
One proposed ordinance would allow the city to issue $7 million in bonds to help pay to replace Day Air Ballpark’s HVAC system, roofing and field lighting and repair field access ramps, according to the legislation.
Other proposed improvements include replacing the playing field, warning track and drainage systems and upgrading player facilities and IT infrastructure.
About $6 million will come from the sale of bonds, and $1 million will come from state capital funds that the city will pass on to the Dragons, said Dickstein.
The owner of the Dragons, Palisades Arcadia Baseball, will provide $5 million in funding support, she said, and Montgomery County will provide $4 million.
They also hope to receive additional state capital funding.
“We’re hoping that our $7 (million) leverages a total of $20 million, that really will make a significant difference in the lifespan of this asset that is an important economic generator for downtown,” Dickstein said.
The Dragons face penalties because some conditions at the stadium do not meet Major League Baseball requirements, said Robbi Stivers, Dayton’s finance director.
The Dayton Dragons and the Cincinnati Reds last year executed a new Major League Baseball Player Development License agreement.
The agreement lasts for 10 years and contains some requirements, though specific details have not been shared publicly.
Robert Murphy, president of the Dayton Dragons, declined to comment about potential penalties, but he said he’s confident issues will be resolved.
The team has spent millions of dollars repairing, maintaining and improving the stadium since it opened, with investments in new netting, video boards, concessions equipment, a pub area and a renovated Dragons Lair, Murphy said.
But he said the stadium has never undergone a complete or major renovation and it has age-related issues with concrete, roofing, heating, air and plumbing.
Many of the planned improvements are behind-the-scene items, Murphy said, adding, “We are also making other changes dealing with player and team staff areas.”
The stadium cost nearly $23 million to build, and the city contributed more than $13 million to the project, said Joe Parlette, Dayton’s deputy city manager.
Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
The rest of the funds came from Montgomery County grants ($4 million) and team ownership, he said.
Since the stadium opened, the team’s ownership has paid for significant upgrades that improved the fan experience, but the city has not contributed any capital funding, Parlette said.
“The team has been and will remain responsible for operations and maintenance since construction was completed,” he said.
Dragons games bring thousands of people downtown, and new housing, restaurants, bars, breweries and other businesses have opened all around Day Air Ballpark.
Since 2016, about $273 million has been invested in development projects in the area around the stadium, Parlette said.
“Many projects are currently underway or in design, totaling another $150 million,” he said.
Montgomery County is considering giving the Dragons $4 million in economic development grant funding over four years, said Deb Decker, a spokeswoman with Montgomery County.
The county will provide this funding if the city commits to investing $6 million into the project and a development agreement is completed between the team and the city, she said.
Major League Baseball axed 42 minor league teams a couple of years ago. The remaining minor league teams are required to have Professional Development League licenses, and they need to modernize their facilities to maintain the licenses, Decker said.
The county hasn’t provided major capital funding since the stadium opened, but it has given the Dragons some of its economic development and coronavirus rescue funds to help pay for COVID-19 supplies and equipment.