ACT Government funding of $5 million will allow the Canberra Cavalry Australian Baseball League club to redevelop its home ground at Narrabundah and pitch to higher level US players and Asian teams wanting to play in Australia.
Announcing the redevelopment of MIT Ballpark, Cavalry General Manager Dan Amodio said the club wanted to bring the field up to international standard and improve the member and fan experience at the ground.
While the ground capacity will only increase marginally, facilities will be modernised and augmented with the main grandstand refurbished and an annex to include new toilets, kitchen, function room and members bar, as well as establishing a Canberra Baseball Hall of Fame.
There will also be a new home for club officials, scorers, broadcast crew and announcers.
The locker rooms will also be refurbished to give the players more space, individual lockers and even phone charge points.
“We’re doing this is to bring the field up to international standards so we can attract better American players and teams from Asia to come down and visit,” Mr Amodio said.
It should also assist recruitment from the club’s North American affiliate clubs, the Toronto Blue Jays and the San Diego Padres.
“When they come to visit they love the experience, they know the guys are well taken care of but we’d be foolish to think that walking round and having nice facilities is not going to make them more and more comfortable about sending their players and sending some better players as well,” Mr Amodio said.
Modernising the ground will also meet the demands of fans who had told the club in surveys that they loved the experience and the community feel of MIT Ballpark but the ground was old and needed updated facilities.
“At the end of the day this is being done for the members, you guys are the lifeblood of what we do. We’re trying to give back and improve the experience,” Mr Amodio said.
Part of this will be a realigning of the field so spectators will be even closer to the action.
The growing popularity of baseball in Canberra and the Cavalry’s increased following presented challenges as well.
“We have to prepare for the increased growth commercially,” Mr Amodio said.
He said the club hoped the new facilities would be a spur to growing the overall pie in Canberra, with more kids coming out to the Cavalry and calling it their local club.
A new fundraising campaign will include the sale of commemorative bricks around the ground for fans and companies wanting to ”get their name etched in the history of the Canberra Cavalry forever”.
The enscribed bricks can be purchased for $275, with a triple brick going for $700. The program is being run through the Australian Sports Foundation and the cost is tax deductable.
In return, purchasers get personalised memorabilia and experiences such as practising with team, sitting in the dugout during games and the opportunity to name the new locker room, and join the players there.
Mr Amodio said the redevelopment would take place between February to November this year so the new MIT Ballpark would be ready for the start of the next ABL season.
In a letter to members, the Cavalry said: “The ACT Government deserves our gratitude as they share our vision of making our home ballpark the very best baseball venue in the country. Their $5 million funding commitment, which is on top of the support they’ve shown us since the club’s inception, will significantly improve your game-day experience while keeping the same charming community feel that we’ve all grown to love about Cavalry games.”
More details about the redevelopment, including design plans, will be announced in late February. The funding was allocated as a Capital Works Project in the 2016-17 Budget.
The club will launch its new membership drive on Sunday with a Members Day at the ballpark where a Trash and Treasure event will give fans the opportunity to rummage through the storage bins and take home old gear.
Mr Amodio said prices would not be not increasing, with goal of providing the best sports value in Canberra. Earlybird pricing available until the championships series includes a playoff ticket and members events.
The Cavalry is third on the ABL table with 15 points, behind the Perth Heat on 18 and the Brisbane Bandits on 19.