ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. - It has been a year and a half since minor league baseball told Elizabethton that its Twins baseball stadium did not meet the league’s minimum requirements. Now, the city is planning to put $1.5 million in bonds toward renovations.
“We've fallen behind as a city in maintaining that facility, in doing the things that we needed to do over time, which is why we're having to play catch up right now,” Mayor Curt Alexander said.
According to an email Minnesota Twins President Dave St. Peter sent Alexander, the stadium needs a new 5,500-square-foot clubhouse. Elizabethton also plans to replace the seating, hoping it will attract more fans.
“The one thing that the city of Elizabethton has to do is we have to make improvements to the minor league clubhouse facility that we operate,” Elizabethton Twins Manager Mike Mains said. “If we don't do that, the future of minor league baseball really is in jeopardy here.”
The Minnesota Twins have only agreed to stay for one more year, but Mains and Alexander expect that to be extended now that renovation plans are moving forward.
Richard Barker, vice president of Elizabethton Federal Savings Bank, donated $28,000 to pay for the architect for the first two phases of the project. This grandfather, Joe O’Brien, is the field’s namesake. O’Brien helped bring the Twins here 43 years ago.
“I felt like the program needed a little bit of a jump start because we've been talking and talking and talking,” Barker said.
Alexander said much of the delay was due to uncertainty with the Minnesota Twins. They had originally agreed to pay for a third of the renovation but then took that offer back. Alexander hopes they will consider giving money now that the city is allotting funds.
The $1.5 million for the Twins renovations is part of a larger $2.6 million in bonds taken out last year.
Elizabethton plans to use $1 million of that money to expand its police department into the former Ritchie’s furniture next door. The department’s criminal investigation division will move from the basement of the public library. There will also be renovations to the current police department building.
The remaining money will be used for improvements at the Elizabethton Golf Course.
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