Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lackawanna County Stadium

If you're not sick of the Lackawanna County Stadium story, you will be after today's blog.

The stadium has been in the news a lot lately. Right field won't drain. Games on sunny days had to be postponed over the lucrative Independence Day Weekend. Yankees' management threatens to move games to other locations until the water problem is fixed.

The team made good on the threat Wednesday afternoon. The next four "home" games will be played in Allentown and Syracuse. That is plain sad. As stated in previous blogs, you can't have a player ruin his career over an injury suffered in a water logged outfield.

The drainage system was given short shrift a few years ago because a lot of people felt the team would be in a new ballpark by now. Overly optimistic? Short sighted? Foolish? Pick your description. We can all agree that this shouldn't have happened.

Some will argue we need a new stadium. This one is 20 years old. A report says the stadium needs $13 million in repairs. They're looking for the attendance boost a new stadium would bring. In my view, a new stadium is only a temporary remedy. The "Yankees affiliation" bump didn't last two years. You need more than a building and a name. You need marketing, and people who know how to make a ballpark experience fun and entertaining.

Here are pictures taken during an informal and unguided tour.

It's a nice "stadium." It's not a "ballpark." This was state of the art at one time. You are likely never to hear "Lackawanna County Stadium" and "charm" in the same sentence. This was the way they built them 20 years ago, prior to the "retro ballpark" trend that was kicked off by Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

However, it's a comfortable place to watch a game-- even if many of the seats are far from the action.

I've always thought the left field party box was ugly and inappropriate for the site.

No matter what it's called, has the restaurant in right field ever consistently drawn a crowd?

Real grass replaced the artificial turf when the Yankees moved in. It's been both a blessing and a curse. Baseball should be played on real grass, but it meant an end to high school football games and band competitions at the stadium. Who was the genius who decided real grass didn't need to drain rainwater?

Concourses are dark and narrow, and not visually appealing. They have been dressed up isnce the Yankees arrived, but there's only so much you can do. I guess you can always make it a "history of exposed plumbing" exhibit.

Parts of the structure have peeling paint, plus bug and bird residue. It's nothing a good cleaning won't solve.

This is the right field swamp. If you have lemons, make lemonade. Put a picture of an alligator on the outfield fence. Make it a marketing tool. In spite of an increase in outfield advertising over the years, the view here remains nice.

Heavy equipment prowled the outfield during my visit.

It's time to face facts. This isn't a great stadium. It's good enough. You're not going to get a new one in the near future. I'm not a plumber, electrician, or engineer. The problems outlined in a recent report are "fixable." The issue may not be with the building, but rather with the people we choose to run it-- now and in the past. The stadium was "all politics" at one time. Now, it's all money, with the impression the people here care nothing about NEPA. This is just a place to do business until something better comes along.

This is a critical time in the history of minor league baseball in our area. Let's not blow it.