City to hire firm to evaluate Slugger Field, suggest improvement - WDRB 41 Louisville News

City to hire firm to evaluate Slugger Field, suggest improvements

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Metro government plans to hire a firm to evaluate Louisville Slugger Field and suggest renovations, repairs and other improvements to the 14-year-old ballpark.

City officials are reviewing bids submitted last month for the work, which Louisville Bats president Gary Ulmer said is a first step in understanding the stadium's needs in the coming decades.

"The ballpark is in fantastic condition heading into our 15th year," Ulmer said. "This is just a preliminary step: Study to make sure the ballpark is perfect for the community for many, many years to come."

Slugger Field is home to the Bats, the Triple-A minor league affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, and has also hosted concerts and been a popular viewing spot for Thunder Over Louisville. Last summer, baseball fans voted it the nation's second best minor-league ballpark.

The city expects to award a contract for the work by the end of the month. The assessment will include electrical, plumbing and other building systems; a structural analysis; a review of the playing surface, seating areas, restaurants, offices and other inside areas; and comparisons of other Triple-A stadiums, according to a request for proposals obtained under the Kentucky Open Records Act.

The consultant will recommend improvements – and their estimated costs – as well as a schedule for completing them.

The city hasn't yet provided a cost estimate for the study.

Metro government owns the ballpark and leases it to the Bats' owners under a 20-year lease signed in 2000. As part of the deal, the Bats pay $727,000 in rent to the city each year, a portion of ticket sales and $75,000 annually to a capital improvement fund, which the city matches by tapping nearby parking lot revenue.

Monies from the capital improvement fund will be used to pay for the Slugger Field study, said Rebecca Matheny, interim executive director of the Louisville Downtown Partnership, a nonprofit agency that oversees the ballpark's lease for Metro government and is funded in part from the ballpark's rental payments.

"Everything has sort of a useful life, and it was exceptionally state of the art at the time it was built," Matheny said. "As we approach year 15 or 20 we wanted to get a really strong sense of where the ballpark is from a national perspective."

Slugger Field opened in 2000 on the site of a former rail shed east of downtown. Since then, team owners have made several "significant" improvements, including a new outfield video board, a roof in the right-field seating deck and upgrades to the air-conditioning system, Ulmer said.

The upcoming study will include input from city and Bats officials, according to the RFP. Ulmer said he's hesitant to name specific areas of the stadium that he hopes are addressed, saying he'll wait for the review to get underway.

Ulmer said he doesn't expect the ongoing construction of the downtown portion of the Ohio River Bridges Project to affect the ballpark study. Several roadway pilings built in Slugger Field's parking lot will eliminate "a couple of dozen" parking spaces, but Ulmer said those spots may be replaced elsewhere when the project is complete.

Ulmer also cautioned that fans shouldn't expect any immediate changes to the ballpark.

"It's exciting that we're all looking to the future," he said. But, he added: "This is not going to be shovels in the ground next September making major improvements to the stadium."

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