Amarillo City Council approves upgrades to Hodgetown

On Tuesday, the Amarillo City Council approved the required MLB upgrades to Hodgetown by a 4-1 vote. Place 1 Councilmember Josh Craft was the lone dissenting vote.

Through a public-private partnership, the Sod Poodles and City of Amarillo are covering costs for the mandatory upgrades. The $4 million construction contract will be paid for through the Hotel Occupancy Tax, with another $595,000 coming from the Elmore Sports Group.

The Elmore Sports Group owns the Amarillo Sod Poodles minor league baseball team.

“All 120 minor league teams have to make these upgrades to meet the minimum Major League Baseball standards.

“None of this increases tax dollars for our local citizens. It’s all coming from HOT Tax Hotel Occupancy Tax and other measures that are already funded,” said Tony Ensor, president/general manager of Amarillo Sod Poodles.

Interim city manager, Andrew Freeman, spoke about the required upgrades to Hodgetown.

“A lot of the requests were more minor as far as adding additional footage here and there, so we feel pretty good that we built a stadium that was meant to be a long-term investment.

“There were concerns that the baseball was able to come in and tell us four years after it was built that you need to upgrade. The Council made it clear they do not want these demands to come up yearly. 

"This was the first year that we had had to make major changes. We have contractual obligations to basically refresh the facility over time to keep the team here," Freeman said.

Eventhough he voted for the measure, Councilmember Tom Scherlen noted some of the upgrades are very unreasonable.

“We are in a catch-22 here. We have got to spend the money, and I just want them to know that I do not like it. They have no right to tell me how to run a baseball park," Scherlen said.

MLB’s required improvements include:

Increased square footage for the shared workout areas

Increased square footage for food service break areas for each team

Dedicated locker and shower space for female athletes

Additional square footage for visiting team coaches

Additional safety netting to cover all infield seating areas to the end of the seating bowl

Construction of a new structure to deal with additional square footage lost in the renovations in the clubhouse areas

Additional security measures

Additional storage for MLB equipment

Additional upgrades to Hodgetown include an extension connecting the press box past the first base light pole.

“We're going to be able to put in another 150-person party deck up there as well as a much-needed office space and storage space,” Ensor said.

Plans are to have everything completed by the month of April in time for the season opener in 2024.

Amarillo resident James Schenck spoke out against the city’s contract with the Elmore Sports Group. Schenck argued the contract only benefits the ownership group.

“They have us over a barrel with this contract. The team and MLB are the only money makers in this contract, and we were left with the bills. 

"This $4.5 million update is an example and won’t be the last,” Schenck said.

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