New information on the future of the Bristol Pirates baseball team. A report just issued identifies three locations for a possible new stadium.
It's a feasibility study analyzing the economic characteristics of Bristol and the surrounding areas. The Bristol Pirates and the City of Bristol, Tennessee commissioned the study. Although the Pirates play now on the Virginia side, Bristol, Virginia declined to take part.
Bristol Baseball leaders now hope this information will help secure the future of the professional minor league in Bristol. The Bristol Pirates play at Boyce Cox Field going on four years now, and before them other Appalachian Minor League teams.
It's a favorite past time for longtime fan Darryl Wyatt.
"It's just great entertainment," Wyatt said. "You can't beat baseball, you know? It's baseball!"
But the nearly 50-year-old stadium needs a lot of repairs and doesn't have room for expansion. Pirates general manager Mahlon Luttrel who said major league affiliate Pittsburgh Pirates want changes that would cost about $4 million there.
"They want facilities improved, they want places that are safe for the players to play," Luttrel said. "That's not an unreasonable expectation."
That's why a feasibility study was commissioned. Luttrel said the study reveals potential for attracting a public or private partner to help fund and build a new stadium.
"You don't have the real friendly fan concourses, you don't have the seating that affords what you could have at a new ballpark, like the table top seating," he said.
He said a preliminary price tag for a newer, bigger stadium is about $15-17 million.
The report identifies three generic locations that would be best: the area of Bristol Motor Speedway, the Pinnacle retail shopping area, and areas in downtown Bristol.
"The downtown area is really vibrant and growing, obviously the Pinnacle is really growing and booming, and then you have the racetrack area down there," Luttrel said, "a lot of traffic and those guys know how to put on a show."
But he said a stadium could potentially go to a place like Washington County, Virginia or Sullivan County, Tennessee as well.
Luttrel said this is a first step in a possible move and it could be two or three years in the making. However he believes a move would be good for the team and fans. Supporter Wyatt agrees but he'd be sorry to see the move.
"I kind of hate to think about them moving, but I would still go," Wyatt said. "I love Pirates baseball."