Last Monday, the Reading City Council unanimously voted to provide $3 million towards necessary FirstEnergy Stadium upgrades. In order to remain a licensed Minor League Baseball affiliate, the team must make stadium renovations that will cost an estimated $15 million.
Major League Baseball has laid out new stadium requirements such as bigger locker rooms, weight rooms and adequate nutrition accommodations. If the Reading Phils and FirstEnergy Stadium are unable to meet those requirements, it is possible that the MLB could revoke their license.
This would of course mean that Reading would stop being the home of the Phillies’ AA affiliate, which is the longest running affiliation in baseball. Reading and First Energy Stadium have been affiliated with the Philadelphia Phillies since 1967, which is tied with the Lakeland Flying Tigers for longest running affiliation. With Reading located just a little over an hour from Philadelphia, the team has always smashed attendance records. Fans travel from across the Delaware Valley to see future Phillies stars while the local community supports the team tremendously.
“They are not just a huge asset for Reading but for eastern Pennsylvania,” said Council President Jeffrey S. Waltman Sr. regarding last week’s 6-0 vote. “The Reading Phillies aren’t an experiment. This is something we know is working and is working well.”
The team thanked the city council for their support. The city of Reading and the R-Phils have enjoyed a long-standing partnership, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, and working together over many years, to transform FirstEnergy Stadium into the wonderful family-friendly venue that has come to be recognized as ‘America’s Classic Ballpark,’ a team spokesman said. “The R-Phils are very appreciative of the Reading City Council vote tonight, authorizing $3 million toward the stadium renovation project.”
The city has yet to decide where exactly they will draw the funding from, though they did indicate that they have the funds. “There are a number of options,” Waltman said when Councilwoman Melissa Ventura asked where the money was coming from. “Including, possibly (American Rescue Plan) money, capital improvement money. It could be fund balance,” he said. “There are a number of options.”
Craig Stein, managing partner with the Fightin Phils, submitted a letter to council pledging $3 million from the organization as long as the city and county each put up $3 million and the state put in at least $7 million.
The Reading Phils requested $7.5 million from the state through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. They hope that the support demonstrated already will help with a commitment, though it is not guaranteed. Reading is one of multiple Pennsylvania baseball stadiums requesting assistance, with State College and Williamsport among the other destinations. “With that level of local commitment to this necessary project, we are hopeful that the commonwealth of Pennsylvania will be able to complete the funding portion of this stadium renovation project,” the team said in a statement.