With opening day right around the corner, the home of the Binghamton Rumble Ponies is set to have a whole new look. A $2.5 million improvement project is currently underway at NYSEG Stadium. Vince Briga brings us inside the ballpark, where officials say fans will now be much closer to the game.
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- At one point two years ago, it looked like the days of baseball in Binghamton could be coming to an end.
Fast forward to the end of 2015, when a new buyer not only purchased the team, but promised to keep it the city until at least the 2022 season.
"I was confident from the very beginning that baseball would stay in the city of Binghamton," Mayor Rich David said, "and once we had a new owner who shared that vision, it's really about how we work together to accomplish our common goals."
Since then, the former Binghamton Mets underwent a name change to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, and a $2.5 million project to upgrade their stadium was underway. Some of those improvements include a new picnic deck area that overlooks the field, a new kids zone and a family center on the third base line.
General Manager Jim Weed says the improvements are all about attracting new fans to the stadium and retaining the old ones.
"It's just going to create that atmosphere that this is the place to be in the summertime and the spring as well," Weed said. "I think it's just all coming together nicely with the brand, with the upgrades to the stadium. It's like a puzzle, but it's all coming together great."
Construction is also underway on a new glass enclosed batting cage. Fans will have the change to stop and watch their favorite players take batting practice.
Officials with the Rumble Ponies say it's just another example of enhancing that fan experience.
"You're going to see a lot of people on this field, right here, that will be in the big leagues," Weed said, "and the fact that you can be right up close and personal with the guys, get autographs, take pictures, you name it, that's really special."
The bulk of the funding was secured from the state. Senator Fred Akshar hopes the new investments will turn the team's poor attendance around in 2017.
"We want to attract and retain young people in our community, families in our community, and we have to provide them with opportunities. Baseball is a staple of American life, and these upgrades are going to be great," Akshar said.
Officials say ticket sales are already much higher than they've been in years past. And Binghamton baseball fans have even more reasons to be excited. Single game tickets oficially went on sale for the first time Wednesday morning.