McKechnie Field


McKechnie Field
McKechnie Field
Florida's Fenway Park
The “Fenway Park” of spring training stadiums[1]
McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Florida
Location 1611 9th Street
Bradenton, FL 34205
 United States
Coordinates 27°29′9″N 82°34′13″W / 27.48583°N 82.57028°W / 27.48583; -82.57028
Opened 1923
Renovated 1993
Owner City of Bradenton
Operator City of Bradenton
Pittsburgh Pirates
Surface Grass
Construction cost US$ 30 million (to date)
Main contractors L.D. Astorino Companies, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Renovation-only)
Capacity 6,602 (1993)
Field dimensions Left Field — 335 ft
Left-Center — 375ft
Center Field — 400 ft
Right-Center — 375 ft
Right Field — 335 ft
Tenants
Pittsburgh Pirates (NL) (1969-present)
Bradenton Marauders (FSL) (2010-present)
Kansas City/Oakland Athletics (AL) (1963-68)
Boston/Milwaukee Braves (NL) (1928-40 and 1948-61)
Boston Red Sox (AL) (1928-29)
Philadelphia Phillies (NL) (1925-27)
St. Louis Cardinals (NL) (1923-24)
Bradenton Explorers (SPBA) (1989-90)
Bradenton Growers (FSL) (1923-24 and 1926)

McKechnie Field is a baseball field located in Bradenton, Florida. It is the spring training home of the Pittsburgh Pirates and is named for Bradenton resident and baseball great, Bill McKechnie, who led the Pirates in 1925, the Cincinnati Reds in 1940 and the Cleveland Indians in 1948 to World Series titles. Several notable members of the Baseball Hall of Fame such as, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Mike Schmidt have played at McKechnie Field during their careers. The stadium also hosts minor league baseball games for the Bradenton Marauders, the Pirates' high-single A club in the Florida State League.

McKechnie's nostalgic charms in its city neighborhood appeal to many baseball traditionalists and ballpark enthusiasts, and some consider the facility to be Florida's version of Fenway Park. It's built in a Florida Spanish Mission style, with white stucco on the main grandstand and cover bleachers over the reserved seating section. The Pirates and the City of Bradenton celebrated their 40th anniversary together during the 2008 spring training season, which included an agreement between the city and the Pirates to continue their partnership for another 30 years.

Contents

History

The stadium was originally built in 1923 for the St. Louis Cardinals. Since its opening, the stadium has hosted the Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves and the Kansas City/Oakland Athletics. In 1969 the Pittsburgh Pirates moved from Terry Park, their spring training home for 14 years, located in Fort Myers, to McKechnie Field.

In 1993 it was decided that the aging stadium was in need of a massive renovation. L.D. Astorino Companies, a Pittsburgh-based firm, was put in charge of renovating the ballpark. After extensive interviews and months of work, an intimate park was recommended with new grounds, wide access ramps, concession stands, kiosks, improved sight lines, while maintaining a ballpark's classic ambiance. McKechnie's old metal chairs that served as box seats, the wooden bleachers were also removed, in favor of more modern stadium seating. The grandstand seen today at McKechnie was built as part of the 1993 renovation and holds 6,602 people.[2] The stadium's remodeling was applauded highly by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and essayist George Will for keeping the vintage baseball park look. The renovation to the Spanish mission-style ballpark preserved the intimate, old-time atmosphere so well that led USA Today dubbed it the “Fenway Park” of spring training stadiums. Renovations prior to the 2008 spring training season included a new visitor’s clubhouse, a new press lounge and lights. McKechnie Field hosted its first night game in history on March 19. Improvements also included a renovation of Pirate City, the team’s southern headquarters, with new offices, player dormitories and a fifth practice field.[1]

The stadium is also host to an annual charity game between the Pirates and the State College of Florida, Manatee–Sarasota. The ballpark's improvements are also made possible through the efforts of the Bradenton Boosters, a volunteer club of local residents that not only raises funds for ballpark improvements,but also operate McKechnie Field on game day. Since 1979, members of the Boosters have volunteered as the Pirates spring training game-day staff. The booster club's 120 members serve as ushers, program sellers, security personnel, merchandise sellers, and press box attendants.[3] McKechnie Field is currently the oldest stadium in the Grapefruit League and the second-oldest in the Florida State League (behind Jackie Robinson Ballpark, built in 1914).

Night games

Originally, no night games were played at the ballpark for the first 85 years in the stadium's history. However, lights were installed and the stadium hosted its first night game in 2008.[3] The first night game at McKechnie was originally scheduled for March 7 as the Pirates took on the Cincinnati Reds but the game was rained out.[4] Instead the ballpark's first night game was pushed back to March 19, 2008. The game resulted in a Pirates loss to the New York Yankees by the score of 12-9.[5]

The installation of lights was made possible after the city of Bradenton received a $15 million grant from the state of Florida to upgrade the Pirates' Spring Training facilities. Besides the lights, the grant money paid for a new visitors' clubhouse and an expanded home clubhouse. A lighted McKechnie Field will allow for night baseball and other events, enabling the city to use the ballpark as a catalyst in an area where officials envision an entertainment district.[6]

Pirates lease

Because of the impending improvements, the Pirates signed a new 30-year lease that went into effect on February 1, 2008. The team is now guaranteed to play at McKechnie Field through 2037, and after playing two night games in Bradenton in 2008 the Pirates will have many more opportunities to play under the lights over the next few decades.[7] The Pirates tenure in Bradenton (41 years) ranks third in longevity among teams that currently hold spring training in Florida. Only the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, Florida (65 years), and the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, Florida (64 years) have been in their spring training locations longer.[3]

40th Anniversary

The Pirates 40th Anniversary in Bradenton Logo

In 2008, to celebrate the Pirates 40 seasons in Bradenton, the team unveiled a commemorative logo celebrating their 40th anniversary of hosting Spring Training in Bradenton, Florida. The logo was symbolic of the club's long-term relationship with the city. The patch displayed classic Pirates "P" onto the historical façade outline of McKechnie Field. The Pirates displayed the logo throughout Spring Training on a large billboard just behind the right-center field wall at McKechnie, as well as on the Pirates Spring Training jerseys.[8]

Minor League use

The stadium also has a short history of minor league use as the home of the Bradenton Growers of the Class D Florida State League, in 1923 until 1924 and again in 1926. While the off-season Bradenton Explorers of the Senior Professional Baseball Association also played here in 1989 and 1990,[9] the stadium did not host a minor league team from 1926 until 2010. The Pirates Rookie Level minor League affiliate Gulf Coast Pirates, formerly the Bradenton Pirates, play their games at the Pirates training facility in Bradenton's Pirate City complex. However baseball officials voted on November 10, 2009 to allow the Pirates to purchase and uproot the Cincinnati Reds' Class A affiliate, the Sarasota Reds. The team was renamed the Bradenton Marauders and played all of its home games at McKechnie Field. In return the Red received the Pirates Class A team, the Lynchburg Hillcats. The new Bradenton team began play on April 7, 2010.[10] The inaugural game ended in 18-3 Bradenton victory over the Fort Myers Miracle.[11]

Field images

Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training sites

References


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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