To keep Mets in Syracuse, county could spend millions on stadium renovations

Sep 19, 2018

Onondaga County lawmakers have been poring over potential renovation plans this month for Syracuse’s minor league baseball stadium, NBT Bank Stadium.

The county needs to figure out how much it needs to spend to keep the New York Mets in central New York. The baseball team, a year ago, became the parent club of the Syracuse Chiefs. Deputy County Executive Bill Fisher said the important part of this project is making the stadium, which has been called one of the worst in the International League, attractive enough so the Mets will stay on for the long term.

"There’s a lot of common interests between the Mets and the community here in central New York,” Fisher said. “We share a real strong motivation to see baseball continue here, even after 2025, when the lease expires.”

So, that means sprucing up the stadium to the tune of more than $25 million dollars. Fisher said negotiations continue with the state about its share, but he expects it to follow precedent.

"The state, when the financing was put together for the stadium built in 1995-96, came up with half the money and looked for a match from the county and the baseball team at the time, the Toronto Blue Jays,” Fisher said. “It would be something along similar lines.”

Naming rights would also add funds for renovations.

“We’re looking at the fan experience, first and foremost,” Fisher said. “We want to have it so that when people come to the stadium for baseball games or other things, we want them to enjoy more of a walk around the field, which is more common in major league and minor league baseball now. We are looking at more comfortable seats.” 

All this discussion could also dredge up the community debate over placing the stadium on the city’s north side, not downtown. And that is something that Legislator Tom Buckel said should be part of this discussion.

“I’m going to try to at least keep options open,” Buckel said. “It may be a dead letter. It may go nowhere. It may be that neither the state, or the Mets or the county have the resources to do it. But we’ve seen with this administration particularly, a willingness to be bold.”