Stadium improvements left out of state budget

When the governor’s budget was released last week, funding for continued renovation of Perdue Stadium wasn’t included, but Delegate Carl Anderton said the oversight was unintentional.

“What I’ve been told is, it was inadvertent. I’m not sure what happened to the lines of communication, but the governor has never let us down yet,” Anderton told the Salisbury Independent this week.

“We should know something any time now, and certainly by the end of the legislative session in April,” Anderton said.

The three-phase, $4.2 million improvement project for the stadium, built in 1996, began last year and includes the elimination of all bleachers and installation of thousands of new bucket seats.

“On the second level, where there is the open seating zone, there were cold, hard, metal bleachers. Now they will all be reserved, standard baseball seats that fold down,” said Chris Bitters, general manager at the stadium.

“We’re very excited about it,” Pat Filippone, president of 7th Inning Stretch, which owns the Shorebirds, said about the 4,500 new seats.

Filippone said booking group outings at the stadium will be easier with reserved single seating.

Fans will also enjoy a new video board, modern and three times larger than the board they’ve seen the past 21 years.

“We took on a lot of structural improvements that needed to be done to protect the facility and make it good for another 20 years,” Bitters said. They included sealing and coating where the bleachers were, to prevent leaks.

Last year, during Phase I of the venture, the field and playing surface were renovated. New stadium lights were installed, walls and fences brought up to safety standards and drainage added, to divert more than 12 inches of rain an hour.

“Now, if it stops raining, we can still play. That was really beneficial to us last year,” Bitters said.

Phase III improvements will include a new concourse to allow spectators to watch the game from the outfield, Anderton said.

“A rail along the outfield fence is in that final plan so you can walk completely around the field on the concourse. It will be a whole new experience for fans,” Anderton said.

The 2017 Shorebirds season opens April 6, with the team on the road. For the first home game, Thursday, April 13, the Shorebirds will face the Hagerstown Suns.

Anderton said after he was elected delegate, he happened to see Bitters at Wawa in North Salisbury and asked him when stadium upgrades would begin. Bitters said it depended on funding Anderton and fellow lawmakers made available.

Anderton researched and discovered funding had been in then-Gov. Martin O’Malley’s budget, but when a fresh administration began, and newly elected officials assembled in Annapolis, the money “slipped through somehow,” Anderton said.

It was included again and refurbishing began.

“I am optimistic we will get this finished,” Anderton said. “The governor was there touring the stadium when he was in town last spring. He totally wants to fund it. Nobody wants to see this not finished.”

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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