READING., Pa. – Reading City Council voted 6-0 Monday night to commit to using $3 million to help fund needed renovations at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The funding will be contingent on the approval of funding from the county, state and the Fightin Phils.
Major League Baseball is requiring improvements to the stadium be completed by opening day in 2023 so that it will meet a set of standards established for minor league stadiums.
The price tag for the upgrades - which includes larger locker rooms and weight rooms - is $15 million.
If those improvements are not made, the Fightin Phils could lose their license as an affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies and the team could be forced to move to another location where a stadium already meets the current standards.
Prior to the vote, Jim Schlegel, chairman of the stadium commission, asked council to approve the funding, saying the upgrades will have a positive economic impact on the city and the county.
Schlegel noted that council’s action to help fund the improvements comes exactly 70 years after the stadium first opened in July 1951.
Councilwoman Donna Reed, whose district includes the stadium, said the city cannot discount the efforts that the baseball town charities have made in the community.
“I know the concerns folks have out there who are not enthusiastic about this and feel a sum of money like this should go elsewhere,” Reed said. “Organizations like the Fightin Phils and the Reading Royals serve a real purpose for the city. The sentiments attached to that stadium are clear. We can’t discount the importance that baseball has played.”
Reed further said she hopes the enhancements made to the stadium act as a catalyst to the formation of a stadium district, which she said is long overdue.
“The investment here will pay back the city many times over,” she said.
Council president Jeffrey Waltman said the presence of the Fightin Phils is not just a huge asset for Reading, but for all of eastern Pennsylvania.
“The Reading Phillies are not an experiment,” Waltman said. “This is something we know is working and it’s working well. There has been a backlog of improvements that have been deferred over the years and its time we have to pay up.”
“The stadium is a face for the city of Reading and Berks County and when people come here, we want them to feel that stadium as a part of our community and use it as a stepping stone to come back for other reasons,” Waltman said. “It’s a good investment. It’s a win-win-win for everyone.”
Councilwoman Lucine Sihelnik said she was pleased that the proposal was presented as an investment in partnership with the county and the stadium commission and that it’s being presented that way to the state for additional funding.
“That’s exactly how we have to work on projects for the betterment of the city and Berks County as a whole,” Sihelnik said.
The Berks County Commissioners have said the county also plans to pledge $3 million for the project.