Shorebirds keep making stadium improvements

For the latest entry in a years-long line of renovations, the Delmarva Shorebirds are upgrading the fan experience at Perdue Stadium. Highlighted by a new 360-degree concourse, the upgrades completed ahead of the 2019 season will mark some of the biggest changes yet to the 23-year-old-ballpark.

In a sense, Perdue Stadium is changing with the times. The ballpark opened in 1996 and has remained a serviceable facility over the years, but for an extended time lacked many of the amenities found in more modern facilities.

Renovations over the last few years have addressed some of those areas, however, and the 2019 season will see the introduction of an outfield concourse that effectively gives Perdue Stadium a 360-degree walkway.

Through this improvement, the Shorebirds are following a few design trends in modern ballparks. One is the creation of a 360-degree concourse—an amenity that was rare in Minor League Baseball circles when the ballpark opened but has become more commonplace since — along with new social spaces.

As the Shorebirds see it, the new outfield area will meet modern expectations while serving different types of fans — including families and small groups looking to take in the game in a more social atmosphere.

“A couple of decades ago, a lot of teams were putting in a lot of luxury suites and what was kind of the thing there with regards to building a new stadium. That’s evolved into more of the social spaces that we’re seeing today,” said Shorebirds General Manager Chris Bitters.

“We think that this will create that opportunity. If a family comes to the ballpark and the kids after a couple of innings want to move around a little bit, mom or dad can take them on a walk and do a lap or two or go hang out in left field,” Bitters said.

“If some friends arrive to the ballpark see each other and want to go share a beer out there on the deck and watch the game from left field, now they can do so,” he said.

While the new outfield area is the highlight of this off-season’s improvements, it is not the only change coming to Perdue Stadium. An existing café area behind home plate has received new tables and additional changes are taking place on the ballpark’s third level, which is seeing work like fresh paint, floor coating, new carpeting, and the installation of new fans. The third level at Perdue Stadium has long been home to the ballpark’s luxury suites and Executive Club banquet facility, and that will continue to be the case.

With the Executive Club and Hardball Cafe improved, the Shorebirds will be able to freshen up their group sales offerings. Those areas, combined with a tiered group area down the right-field line, will be the focuses on the club’s group sales, leaving the new outfield area as a space where all fans can wander and take in the action.

“At this point, there’s not going to be any group space or group sales,” Bitters said of the outfield area. “We have pretty adequate group space here with regards to a large, multi-tiered deck down the right field line,” and the upgraded Executive Club and Hardball Café.

Once these improvements go into effect, they will combine with previous upgrades to give a fresh fan experience at the ballpark. Prior to the 2017 season, the Shorebirds made two significant updates by removing general admission seating and making the entire seating bowl reserved. Additionally, the ballpark’s original videoboard was replaced with a modern display that has served Perdue Stadium well since it was installed.

“While we’re never going to have the biggest board in Minor League Baseball like a lot of teams are promoting, I think for our park we’ve had a great-sized board,” said Bitters. “The clarity is awesome, and we continue to learn the functionality of it and continue to improve that fan experience.”

This will mark some of the biggest change made in a multi-year effort that has its roots in a 20-year lease extension signed the Shorebirds signed with Wicomico County at the time. The lease allowed the two sides — along with the state of Maryland — to partner on a multi-phase improvement plan, with some structural upgrades, improved player facilities, and a new playing surface also part of that project.

Those improvements should help extend the long-term viability of Perdue Stadium, with the latest upgrades perhaps the most significant to the ballpark’s fan amenities in its history. The renovations are on track to be completed in advance of Opening Day on Thursday, April 11.

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