SPRINGDALE – The public facilities board on Tuesday voted to fund $ 48,000 in upgrades to Arvest Ballpark.
Justin Cole, general manager of Northwest Arkansas Naturals, presented bids to the commission to build a women’s locker room at the baseball stadium.
Naturals, AA minor league-affiliated Kansas City Royals, plays in Arvest Ballpark. The Public Facilities Board oversees the city’s ballpark and other industrial properties.
Cole explained that Major League Baseball requires stadium upgrades across the organization by 2025. Other upgrades to Arvest will include an improved locker room for visiting teams and playing field improvements, with the major projects spread across the three-year timeline, he said.
Cole said the women’s locker room would serve women who are coaches, referees and coaches from both teams. The natives have a female nutritionist and a few other support staff, he said.
Commissioner Brent Hanby suggested the board ask Rich Entertainment Group, which owns Naturals, to pay half the cost of renovations.
Rich of Buffalo, NY, owns Naturals, two other baseball teams and 12 other entertainment-related businesses across the country. Representatives of the company could not be reached by phone this week.
Cole said the delayed decision could leave him and his staff in a time crunch to get the job done. The ballpark will begin hosting other events in March, and that’s when the players arrive, he said.
The board’s ballpark account holds $ 841,000, said Wyman Morgan, the city’s director of administration and finance.
The rent paid by the baseball team goes into an account to pay for maintenance and capital improvements at the stadium, he explained.
The city built Arvest Ballpark with voters’ approval of a bond in 2006, Morgan said.
The Ballpark project will include a $ 7,543 contract with White River Contractors for concrete work and $ 35,000 for Multi-Craft Contractors for plumbing. The work will include the installation of sinks, toilets and showers.
City attorney Ernest Cate said the city’s lease with Naturals says the city’s responsibilities are limited to regular maintenance and upgrades.
“I think we should do this,” said Jim Crouch, chairman of the Public Facilities Board. “The team has been good stewards of our ball field. You have kept the facility the way we wanted it and saved us money by being efficient.”
“If that’s what we need on the ball field to have a team, then we do it,” said board member Don Gibson.
Crouch noted that the team has helped the board with other capital projects. For example, when the board’s money to build the ball field was exhausted, the team built many of the concession facilities.
The locker room will be built in a 500-square-foot space that was previously used for storage for matches on the court with the crowd, Cole said. Recently, it was used as a covid-19 dressing room, and women used a family toilet area.
Crouch also noted that the city did not sign a confidentiality agreement at the request of Major League Baseball. The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act ensures transparency in government, a guarantee of public access to public meetings and documents.
“We can not sign it,” Morgan said. “It’s against the law.”