HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Reading Fightin Phils have scored a big win in Harrisburg, and they didn't have to play their midstate rivals to get it.
The Wolf administration announced Friday that it has awarded the R-Phils a $7.5 million grant from Pennsylvania's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP).
That funding, along with a total of $6 million in federal stimulus money from the city and Berks County and $3 million from the R-Phils, make up the $16.5 million it will cost to make required upgrades to the team's 70-year-old ballpark.
"Losing the Reading Fightin Phils was never an option, and keeping the team in Reading has been one of my top economic development priorities," said state Sen. Judy Schwank. "Officials from the state, county and local level were all on the same page and acted quickly and with urgency to find funding. We really worked together, and across party lines, to get this done."
Major League Baseball is requiring all minor league teams to make certain upgrades to their ballparks before the start of the 2023 season.
The R-Phils will have to add to the city-owned stadium a commissary with a dining area, a bigger weight room for the players, and locker rooms for female coaches and female umpires.
Those new areas, along with batting tunnels, bullpens, and field managers' offices, will be part of a 2-story building that will be constructed behind the wall in right-center field.
The team will also have to expand the ballpark's dugouts and install more security cameras.
"We are so very thankful to our elected-officials from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the City of Reading, and the County of Berks, who all worked very hard to achieve this solution," said Scott Hunsicker, the R-Phils' general manager. "We are excited for the future of FirstEnergy Stadium, as we continue to work hard to ensure that America's Classic Ballpark remains a family-friendly show piece for our Baseballtown Region, and something that we all can be very proud of."
The new, climate-controlled building will be multi-dimensional and flexible for year-round use by community organizations, businesses, and individuals seeking to host a variety of events at the stadium when games aren't being played, according to team officials.
State lawmakers who worked with the Wolf administration to secure the funding said the money goes beyond just keeping professional baseball in Baseballtown.
"The Reading Fightin Phils have been a source of Berks County pride for decades," said state Sen. David Argall. "This highly competitive funding will ensure they continue to be a great example of community jobs and economic revitalization in Berks and Schuylkill counties and throughout this region for decades to come."
"Like the pinstripes on their jerseys, the Reading Phillies are stitched into the fabric of our community," said state Rep. Manny Guzman. "Generations of families have made it a tradition to visit this historic ballpark and root for their home team. I am so grateful this tradition and the memories that come with it will remain steadfast here in Reading."
"My priority has always been to protect the legacy and tradition of the Reading Phillies," said state Rep. Mark Rozzi said. "I am proud to bring home the funding necessary to support our mission of preserving FirstEnergy Stadium as the premier minor league ballpark in the country. It is my honor to keep one of the greatest organizations, the Fightin Phils, right where it belongs, here in Reading."
Officials said more details about the upgrades, including renderings of the new building, will be released during a news conference next Tuesday.