Ron Tonkin Field construction will prepare for future of baseball
It's less than a decade old, but Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro is getting a facelift.
Officials from the Hillsboro Hops, the minor league baseball team that uses the ballpark, and the city of Hillsboro, which owns it, say the overhaul plans are out of necessity to adhere to new standards for minor league facilities.
The Hops started play in 2013 as a Class A Short Season team, one of the lowest in baseball's multilayered minor league hierarchy. That classification was eliminated before the 2021 season, and the Hops and most of their rivals moved up to High-A, a more prestigious level that starts play in April rather than mid- to late June.
With the reorganization, the Hops are under pressure to meet MLB's new requirements, so they can keep their affiliation with the Arizona Diamondbacks. But they're hoping that the overhaul brings in new fans, too.
Firm costs and a timeline on the stadium project have not yet been hashed out, as the project is still early in the design phase. So far, the city government has pledged $40 million. Of that, $10 million will come from taxes collected on hotel and motel stays.
Representatives at a media event on Thursday, June 23, said that the Hops will pay back $30 million in "seed money" through additional rent payments.
City officials have been adamant that none of the cost will come from the general fund, which pays for most of Hillsboro's city departments, staff and services.
"It's all about enhancing the fan experience," said Jeff Yrazabal, principal designer for SRG Partnership. "Making sure this field brings about the best in customers and the players."
He said the design group is reaching out to players to see what improvements they would like, since many of the new requirements for minor league stadiums deal with improving facilities for players.
One of the companies that was awarded the design-build contract is Mortenson, a company that is experienced in sports venue design. Mortensen recently finished construction on Seattle's Climate Pledge Arena, home of the Kraken hockey team and Storm WNBA team.
"Mortenson is well-known in the venue space, so we are excited to have them working on this," said Hops public relations manager Brian Berger.
There is a whole host of new standards imposed by MLB, including new facilities for female coaches, umpires and potentially even players.
Team owner Mike McMurray said that the concept of more women in the sport is exciting, and the Hops organization is all-in on women as the future of the sport.
"We've embraced it because we want to be part of the future of baseball," said McMurray, who has owned the team with his wife, Laura, since the club was based in Yakima, Washington. "I came from a generation where we didn't even think of it: women playing baseball. It was just never done before."
Other improvements include larger clubhouses, office renovations, and a more nutritional commissary service mandated by MLB, which obtained more control over the nation's 120 minor league clubs in 2020. The idea is to apply more uniform standards — no pun intended — for minor league affiliates, improving player development.
McMurray said that all this will require moving a lot of concrete, and "any time you have to do that, it's an opportunity."
Construction is currently slated to begin sometime in 2023.
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