SPRINGDALE -- Work on an expanded visitors' clubhouse at Arvest Ballpark should begin soon and be completed before opening day of the 2024 baseball season, according to a report made to the Springdale Public Facilities Board on Wednesday.
Justin Cole, general manager for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, told the board the contract for the expansion had been reviewed by the city attorney and the city should approve it soon.
The Public Facilities Board approved a contract for $515,000 at a special meeting Nov. 2. Cole said Wednesday the project should be completed in March 2024. The Naturals' season begins April 5, he said.
Bill Rogers is president of the Springdale Chamber of Commerce, which contracts with the Public Facilities Board to provide support and other services. Rogers reviewed the process that led to the clubhouse expansion project and other improvements.
"In January 2021, Major League Baseball took over minor league baseball," Rogers said. "As part of that there was a reevaluation of all minor league stadiums. Each ballpark had a certain number of 'points' based on needed improvements. This expansion of the visiting locker room is the final box to check off on our list."
The project on the visiting team's side will include expanding the training room from 200 to 300 square feet, expanding the food preparation and dining area from 135 to 300 square feet, expanding the clubhouse and dressing room from 850 to 1,000 square feet and expanding the coaches' dressing area from four lockers totaling 124 square feet to seven lockers totaling 220 square feet, according to information from the team.
Cole said the ballpark has already installed a new grass field and done other "minor" improvements as required. He said the grass has done well and is still growing. Cole said once the grass goes fully dormant, the field will likely be c0vered for the winter to protect it from colder temperatures.
The board also discussed the question of oversight and authority over events other than baseball games during the baseball season. Rogers said the agreement with the city and the team allows the city to designate up to 10 dates during the season when the ballpark can be rented for other uses.
Cole said with the new turf having just been installed, the 2024 season "may not be the best timing" for other events.
Rogers said a number of outside events, including concerts, have already been hosted at Arvest Ballpark, but he acknowledged some types of activities weren't suitable.
"You wouldn't want them to have a bonfire," he said.
Jim Crouch, board chairman, said he wasn't certain if the board had final authority over outside events, but he felt comfortable the team, the board and the city would be able to work together to protect the field while still allowing outside events.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals team is a minor league affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. The Springdale team is owned by Rich Products Corp. in New York. The city built Arvest Ballpark with voter approval of a bond in 2006. The Public Facilities Board oversees the ballpark and industrial properties for the city. The team rents the stadium from the city, with payments going into an account to pay for maintenance and capital improvements at the stadium.
Source: Northwest Arkansas Naturals