Council to address Joe O’Brien improvements

Published 4:18 pm Monday, August 7, 2017

Improvements could soon be on the horizon for Joe O’Brien Field.
Elizabethton City Council will meet Thursday, Aug. 11, with a loaded agenda that features one popular talking point that’s stuck around over the past two years.
Members will look at Joe O’Brien in two different ways Thursday. First would involve looking at passing a resolution to enter into an architectural agreement with Thomas Weems in regards to stadium upgrades. The second includes a first reading of an ordinance to distribute $2,628,539,63 worth of bond funding to go to three different sectors, including Joe O’Brien.
City Council met in August during a capital funding workshop to address the bond note, which can only be used for a specific line of items, including recreation and safety. Council members were in agreement to use the funding, which comes as no tax increase to the public, for renovations at Joe O’Brien ($1,500,000), work at the Ritchie’s building and current Elizabethton Police Department headquarters ($1,003,539.63) and the Elizabethton Golf Course ($125,000).
During the workshop, Lee Landers, Appalachian League president, alluded to the fact that Joe O’Brien, which houses the Elizabethton Twins, would no longer be in standards with the Professional Baseball Agreement between MiLB and Major League Baseball without improvements.
Elizabethton Mayor Curt Alexander told attendees he was in contact with Minnesota Twins President Dave St. Peter about the status of the Twins’ affiliate staying in Elizabethton. St. Peter reportedly stated an interest of the team staying in Elizabethton. Pat O’Connor, president and chief executive officer of MiLB, also issued a letter to Alexander that while there’s interest of the team staying, Joe O’Brien failed to “meet some of the minimum guidelines outlined within the Minor League Facility Standard” and fall “well below” current facilities being used by comparable clubs in the Appalachian League.
Discussion ensued during the meeting until the $1.5 million request was presented, which was reportedly the amount needed to fund renovations to have the facility meet standards to continue housing a Minor League Baseball team — whether it be the Twins or another team.
To help the process, Elizabethton Twins Task Force member Richard Barker offered to donate $28,000 to hire an architect to develop the concept for renovations — which will be brought up during Thursday’s meeting — to commemorate his family’s work at the location. The funding would start the process of clubhouse renovations and other items needed to be within compliance.
Bond funding must go through a first and second reading before being official. If the funding were to go to Joe O’Brien, other plans are on the horizon on how to operate a minor league affiliate team, including the possibility of bringing in a sports management agency. The recommendation made also includes asking the Twins to make a contribution, originally less than the one-third proposal made by the Twins Task Force months ago, to assist with other needed improvements.
Joe O’Brien currently houses the Twins and is the home field for the Elizabethton High baseball team. During the workshop, ideas circulated about utilizing the facility as a venue to host different events, including concerts.

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