IronPigs one step closer to affording stadium improvements

Written by on September 28, 2022

IronPigs one step closer to affording stadium improvements

By Hayden Mitman
September 28, 2022

Lehigh County commissioners on Wednesday gave gave the first reading to a bill — which was unanimously sponsored by the entire board — that would award $3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to the Lehigh Valley team.(Photo | Frank Mitman/IronPigs)

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — The IronPigs minor league baseball team is one small step closer to cementing its cleats into the turf at Coca-Cola Park, as Lehigh County’s Board of Commissioners are prepared to deliver the team $3 million toward needed stadium upgrades.

On Wednesday night, commissioners gave the first reading to a bill — which was unanimously sponsored by the entire board — that would award $3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to the Lehigh Valley team. 

The IronPigs would need to agree to an extension of the lease to Coca-Cola Park and the money would be in addition to the $1.5 million the county committed to the stadium improvement project in May. 

The funds haven’t yet been approved. 

But could this mean that the county is stepping up where Allentown may not

Could this close that gap and finally allow the IronPigs afford that $9.5 million needed to construct the stadium upgrades that Major League Baseball demands? 

County Commissioner Geoff Brace wasn’t sure.

More than simply losing a team

“What we are looking at here is the county’s commitment is unequivocal in ensuring that Coca-Cola Park stays occupied by the IronPigs,” Brace said. “The commonwealth has made several commitments to support that. We are hopeful that the city comes through in some regard.” 

Yet, he said, there is more at stake than simply losing the Philadelphia Phillies-affiliated, Triple-A minor league team. 

Brace said that, if the team can’t afford the upgrades by the deadline before next season, and decides to leave the stadium empty, Lehigh County taxpayers could be on the hook for any costs associated with the county owning Coca-Cola Park.

The commissioner said the team pays the county in order to play at the stadium, built in 2007 at a cost of more than $50 million.

So just how much would taxpayers have to pay if the team vacates the park? 

Brace said he hasn’t done the math — and he doesn’t want to. 

“I tend to take the focus that I don’t want to get to the point where I have to find out the hard way,” he said. “If that goes away, that’s a sizable obligation for the taxpayers of Lehigh County to have to carry.” 

City contribution expected

Allentown’s City Council is expected to address the issue at its meeting next month. 

The county’s bill will receive a final vote at the board’s next meeting in two weeks.

Also during the meeting, commissioners voted to withdraw a bill that would have let Lehigh County partner with the nonprofit Lehigh Valley Justice Institute to study recidivism in the county’s prison.

In recent weeks, commissioners and county officials seemed at odds as to how the study might be conducted.

Joseph Welsh, executive director of the Justice Institute, told the board that he supported the decision to re-evaluate the bill.

“I had some concerns from the beginning that the way in which the agreement was structured seemed very open-ended,” Welsh said. “At the end, is what is produced in the 16-month study really what the county wanted? So the attempts to clarify that, I think, are very important.” 

During Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners decided the bill needed more study before it could be brought forward for a vote. 


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