Williamsport’s Bowman Field is a staple. It stands as the second oldest minor league stadium in North America. Her roots go all the way back to 1926, and she is registered as a historic landmark in the state of Pennsylvania. Bowman currently serves as the home of our beloved Crosscutters — a short season minor league affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.
The City has had an “interesting” relationship with Bowman Field over the past few seasons. Yes. Our current administration likes to keep things intriguing. Some times it’s good. Other times it’s bad. We all remember the debacle from 2013. A semi-professional outdoor hockey team just isn’t geared for Lycoming County. It sure was fun while it lasted, but this little experiment turned into a frozen pipe dream. The Williamsport Outlaws bailed after one year.
Our friends from Harrisburg provided some much-needed funds in 2016. The city then broke ground on a $3 million expansion. A large deck along the first base line was constructed. This additional space allowed fans to interact while enjoying food and refreshments. Bowman also made some changes to the stadium’s seating. It reduced the capacity to 2,366 according to Wikipedia.
Major League Baseball got involved in 2017. They wanted to play a regular season game at historic Bowman. This was an unprecedented idea, and the contest was scheduled during the Little League World Series, which made it even better. But in order to host something this big, our little ballpark had to go through some major changes.
MLB invested millions and Bowman, and her surroundings turned into Area 51. It was a huge secret, but the state of the art playing surface captured the most buzz. MLB actually hires someone each year to keep an eye on our expensive grasses. I’m serious. They added many other improvements, but most of these upgrades were only brought in for a single game. The gorgeous Jumbotron that stood in deep center was one of those that was packed up when the major leaguers were done.
The first two MLB Little League Classics were very successful, and all of the lucky kids who were in attendance had a blast. The third is scheduled for August 18th. This game will feature the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cool beans.
The city has since scored an additional $600,000 to go to the structural upgrades at Bowman Field. My man Sen. Gene Yaw secured the State Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program Grant. This matching money was “intended” to go to the visiting team’s clubhouse and the purchase of a new scoreboard. Solid. These final upgrades are very crucial in keeping the Williamsport Crosscutters around.
No. They do not own Bowman. The minor league team only leases the facility. The City of Williamsport is responsible for all of the capital improvements as they handled the bids for construction and the $600,000 scoreboard. One of the companies who didn’t win the contract cried foul ball. They protested and accused us of insider trading on the BA5615-09. This unfortunate delay has opened some worms.
Council recently asked the Mayor to outline his matching funds. Crickets. Initially, we were to receive monies from the Crosscutters, River Valley Transit, Lycoming County Visitors Bureau and Natural Gas Impacts to equal the State’s investment. But something must have gone wrong. We are now completely out of money. The administration doesn’t want to borrow or take out a loan. Yes. It’s a mess, kids. Good luck in getting this new scoreboard by June 14 — the Crosscutters’ home opener.
But forget who’s on first. What’s the score at Bowman? Another example of why sports and politics simply do not mix. Hopefully, the City can make these upgrades without using taxpayers’ dollars in a timely matter. And if they do — perhaps Bowman Field can even be used by the local high schools. A lot has changed with the protocols, and the jury is still out. By the time I am scribing this, none of the scholastic teams have heard if they will be able to use Bowman this spring. Cheers.