ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Major League Baseball’s new deal with its minor league teams could include new standards for minor league stadiums, as in facility upgrades for the players and coaches. The new Professional Development Licence agreements may force the City of Albuquerque to make some changes at Isotopes Park.
In the heart of Albuquerque, sits an empty Isotopes Park. “No one’s been in here for many months,” explained Johnny Chandler, with the City of Albuquerque’s Department of Municipal Development.
The entire 2020 minor league season was canceled in the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s been a somber mood when you’re 16,000 people you know cheering your team on, too – we are the only three people in this facility right now,” explained Chandler. “It is kinda sad.”
The City of Albuquerque owns Isotopes Park. “We are responsible for the facility, as well as the maintenance upkeep and improvements of the facility as well,” said Chandler.
Looking ahead to the future, the hope is to return to the days of packing the stadium with fans. What the 2021 season will look like still depends on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With Major League Baseball finalizing new license agreements for its minor league affiliates, more changes could be in the pipeline for Isotopes Park. “Some things that they’re proposing just make a lot of sense,” said Chandler. It’s part of MLB’s plan to reshape the minor leagues, modernizing facilities, and improving player development.
According to reports from the Athletic and Baseball America, changes include clubhouse expansions and dedicated areas such as showers and changing rooms for female umpires and team staff.
One of the rooms that may need to be upgraded is the weight room at Isotopes Park. MLB may require it to be 750-square-foot minimum. As it stands, the weight room measures just under 600-square-feet.
New terms include requirements that team manager offices must accommodate six people and four people for the visiting team’s office. Some improvements have already taken place. “We were able to take advantage, the unfortunate advantage, of there being no baseball and no soccer in the stadium, in this facility,” Chandler explained.
This year there is a new stucco and a new HVAC system. The pedestrian bridge was slightly raised to accommodate other events like concerts when things open back up, Chandler said.
Isotopes Park blueprints show team locker rooms already exceed the required 1,000 square foot minimum. Chandler said the city will work with the Isotopes and MLB on any other necessary upgrades.
“The best baseball and the best soccer in the state of New Mexico are played right here,” said Chandler. “We’re in a first-class facility, we’re gonna continue to keep it that way.”
MLB is expected to get rid of 40 lower-level teams to save money. The triple-A Isotopes will be safe from the cuts. There’s no word yet though from MLB on what the 2021 season will look like.