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Frontier Field to get $26 million upgrade — paid for by taxpayers 

click to enlarge Frontier Field.

PHOTO BY JAMES BROWN / WXXI NEWS

Frontier Field.

Frontier Field, the home of the Rochester Red Wings, is in line for a $26 million facelift that is expected to bring visible changes to the stadium within the next three years, including a concourse ringing the ballpark and high-top table seating overlooking the outfield.

Officials from the team, the state, and Monroe County announced the changes Monday during a news conference on the field, where they revealed that state and county taxpayers would effectively split the cost of the project.

County taxpayers will foot $13.5 million of the bill, with the remaining $12.5 million being financed by the state, according to officials. The county will pay for its share through a bonding initiative.

Roughly half of the upgrades are intended to meet new facility standards being imposed by Major League Baseball on its minor league affiliates. But the rest, officials said, are aimed at enhancing the fan experience and keeping pace with comparable ballparks.

“This project will help us cover both the improvements that were necessary for Major League Baseball standards, but it’s also going to allow us to complete a project that’s necessary for our community standards to be able to give first-class amenities and experience to our residents,” County Executive Adam Bello said.

click to enlarge Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, flanked by state and county officials, announces a $26 million investment to renovate Frontier Field on April 25, 2022. The cost will effectively be split by county and state taxpayers. - PHOTO BY DAVID ANDREATTA
  • PHOTO BY DAVID ANDREATTA
  • Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, flanked by state and county officials, announces a $26 million investment to renovate Frontier Field on April 25, 2022. The cost will effectively be split by county and state taxpayers.
Most of the changes being imposed by the big leagues will be in the bowels of the stadium and invisible to fans. They include upgrades to the clubhouse, locker rooms, weight rooms, batting tunnel, and video facilities. The price tag for those improvements is anticipated to be $12 million. Another $3 million is dedicated for seat replacements.

But fans will notice where the other $11 million went. Much of that money will go toward the construction of a “360-degree” concrete concourse to be dappled with high-top seating.

Currently, fans are restricted to the diamond side of the ballpark between the left and right field foul poles. A handful of ticketed high-top table seats in left field, which officials called “bistro seating,” have been available since 2019 and are among the most popular spots to catch a game.

Red Wings President Naomi Silver said the team also envisions an observation deck to be built atop the historic former Hose Co. 3 firehouse that sits on the left field concourse inside the stadium gates.

She and other officials noted that while the Red Wings will not be contributing to the cost of the upgrades, the team puts upward of $100,000 into a stadium maintenance fund yearly.

“That care and upkeep by the Red Wings and the county is the reason the bones of this stadium are solid,” Silver said. “But our community deserves to have some of the new stadium features that new stadiums across the country are having in their new buildings.”

That Frontier Field would be renovated was not entirely unexpected.

RELATED: Monroe County to foot bill for Frontier Field upgrades

Team and county officials announced in January 2021 that the county would invest what at that time were untold millions of dollars to upgrade the stadium to meet Major League Baseball standards by 2025.

click to enlarge Rochester Red Wings President Naomi Silver and Monroe County Executive Adam Bello discuss plans to upgrade Frontier Field on Jan. 29, 2021. - PHOTO BY DAVID ANDREATTA
  • PHOTO BY DAVID ANDREATTA
  • Rochester Red Wings President Naomi Silver and Monroe County Executive Adam Bello discuss plans to upgrade Frontier Field on Jan. 29, 2021.
Those requirements forced local governments that, like Monroe County, own their stadiums to invest millions of dollars in improvements or risk losing their minor league teams. The Red Wings are the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

For instance, NBT Bank Stadium in Syracuse, home of the New York Mets Triple-A affiliate, recently underwent a $25 million renovation. The cost of that project was split by the state and Onondaga County.

What was a surprise in Rochester on Monday was the announcement that improvements beyond the demands of Major League Baseball — and the many millions of dollars they will cost — were in the offing.

The announcement coincided with the release of the results of a new Siena College poll that found just one in four New York residents favored investing $600 million in state money into building a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills.

Bello called the improvements anticipated for Frontier Field “a different project” and justified the investment of tax dollars by saying the stadium “serves the greater community, not just the baseball team.”

Frontier Field hosts festivals, concerts, and movies, in addition to roughly 70 Red Wings home games.

The stadium was built in 1997 at a cost of $36 million and has not undergone any significant upgrades since its construction.

David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at dandreatta@rochester-citynews.com.
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