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Updated: Bisons to replace 3,700 seats as Phase I to 'overhaul' of Coca-Cola Field

Updated: Bisons to replace 3,700 seats as Phase I to 'overhaul' of Coca-Cola Field Coca-Cola Field opened in 1988.


The Buffalo Bisons announced tonight they are embarking on a multi-year renovation plan at Coca-Cola Field, with Phase I consisting of the installation of 3,700 new seats in the special reserved sections from dugout to dugout.

The new green seats will be 22 inches wide, an increase of 3 inches from the current red seats. The project will begin the day after the team's season ends, be it in the regular season or playoffs, and will take 2-3 months. The city will be footing the $758,000 bill.

Jonathan Dandes, president of Rich Baseball Operations, said the team hopes to unveil its master plan for the ballpark in the next couple of months. Populous, the Kansas City-based firm that built the park from 1986-88, is currently finalizing its recommendations.

The team has not specified its wish list but Dandes confirmed one item will be replacing all 17,000-plus seats in the ballpark, which has a capacity of 18,025 when party areas are included.

"It's not only just the seats. It's everywhere else in the ballpark," Dandes said. "Everything is on the table, including a retractable roof over the party deck to a renovation of our suites to dugouts suites, concession stands and fan amenities."

"It's an even more critical investment and destination for the city with more traffic coming from across the Peace Bridge," said Mayor Byron Brown, referring to the club's affiliation with the Toronto Blue Jays. ". ... We need to make sure we're making the proper investments so that the fan experience is a good one, so that the fans keep coming back and enjoy the kind of experience they deserve and we all want them to have."

The Bisons also have numerous infrastructure items that need upgrading in the 26-year-old facility.

"After 26 years, it's doing great but it's still 26 years old," Dandes said of the park. "A lot of the money we need to spend right now are things our fans would never see: Electrical issues and plumbing issues and air conditioning issues. That's infrastructre of things we need to address.  But what comes next are concession stands, our suite areas, party deck and all of the party areas we hope to create."




Dandes said the team is working on ticketing options for the new seats and current season ticket-holders and that capacity of seats will be reduced some. Still, the total capacity once new party areas are constructed will stay roughly the same.

The team has studied ways to reduce capacity and increase ticket demand for seats for the last couple of years to bring the  facility in line with Triple-A stadiums around the country. Coca-Cola Field has been the largest minor-league facility since it opened in 1988 with a capacity of 19,500.

Only three other parks in the 14-team International League are even over 12,000 -- Indianapolis' Victory Field (14,230) Louisville's Slugger Field (13,131), and Norfolk's Harbor Park (12,067).

In fact, the four most recent ballparks built in the league since 2009 (Lehigh Valley, Columbus, Gwinnett and Charlotte) all have capacities around 10,000.

So while a crowd of 8,000 would be upwards of 70-80 percent of capacity in most places in the league, it leaves the Bisons playing in a half-empty stadium. The team thus does a large percentage of its sales with walkup crowds, and can have its gate seriously affected by rain a couple of hours before the first pitch or even by a negative weather forecast.

In theory, people who purchase tickets in advance will still come to the park and use them regardless of the weather in the event the game is actually played.

Reducing capacity has become a tool in the major leagues as well. The Colorado Rockies took out acres in seats in the upper deck of Coors Field this season and replaced them with party areas and the Cleveland Indians announced a similar project last week that will do likewise at 20-year-old Progressive Field.

  • Lawrence River

    how about bigger and cleaner bathrooms?

  • Michael DiPasquale

    Don't understand what the size of the stadium has to do with "walk up" tickets.

    • Mike Harrington

      If the stadium is smaller, you'll buy in advance of game day. At the current size, few fans buy tickets until showing up at the park. If the weather is bad that day, they hence don't come. Like I said in the post, smaller park/buy in advance/have tickets in hand and people will more likely show if weather is iffy

      • Dave

        You could also reason that with a large capacity people wont hesitate to come down to a game knowing there will always be tickets available.

        • WHAT?

          True, but the other model, one of ticket shortage, has been proven in the real world. While directly on point research isn't available (that I could find, and there are necessarily going to be data problems), work on ticket scalping shows that Harrington's argument is correct.

      • Michael DiPasquale

        I'm not convinced.....but ....assuming what you say is you think it's better to force the fans to buy tickets? And should the city be paying to reduce the number of seats, and thus become an accessory to this "trick"?

    • Antimoz

      With all the excess seats its easier and cheaper to walk up, buy a General Admission ticket and park yourself anywhere there is an open seat. Creating demand by reducing the number of available seats forces those who want a better view of the action to purchase a full price reserved seat, Minipack or advance purchase. Greater revenue to the team any way you cut it.

  • townline

    Went to a game in Columbus this past year and it was a great experience. Lots of open mezzanine spaces, you can walk around the entire field watching the game the entire time and it felt very integrated with the city around it. Great place to take small kids (my son was 1.5) who can't sit in a ballpark seat for 3.5 hours straight. The whole experience felt like a great night out with drinks, only i could bring my kids too. I love Pilot Field as a traditional stadium, but I think some of these improvements would be a very welcomed addition that would make the Bison's an evening destination again. Look forward to hearing what they have planned!

  • El Elegante

    How about that the Blue Jays are playing a three game set here, against anyone but the Yankees. KC Royals are fine by me, no disrespect meant. Enough of us transferring our junk up there. Let us enjoy their junk for a change. A three game set, with one game on ESPN, displaying a solid out raucous crowd. Lets take it back to '88 and maybe Terry P or Tommy G can get us a team.

  • Jon S.

    Bob Rich moved out of Buffalo years ago... Rich products is a shell of itself....
    So, the city pays for the stadium and he gets to keep all the revenue..... and takes it back to his home in Florida....
    Someone should call this phony out...
    He TAKES from our community and gives little back.... a total fraud...
    Let him pay for his own upgrades.

    • SouthTownsTaxPayer

      I'm surprised no one has suggested that Terry Pegula buy the team.

      • Jon S.

        Yeah... Pegula uses his own money.... while Rich grabs everything he can from our pockets.. He is a total thief, compared to Pegula.

        • SouthTownsTaxPayer

          Yeah, right!! IF Pegula buys the Bills, you'll see how fast he starts sucking $$'s from the taxpayers. He's no different than any of the other sports team owners.

          • Robhimself79

            YPegula has spent plenty of money in and around the arena. Harbor center wasn't needed but it is an amazing addition to the area.

            He doesn't need public money, I just wish brown would just go away and let everything else catch up to the progress Terry has made.

  • SouthTownsTaxPayer

    One suggestion! As long as the seats are going to be replaced, face them slightly toward home plate. It will provide better viewing for everyone!!

  • Otis

    Best way to increase baseball attendance is to do more to promote the sport within the community and in youth baseball. The more kids play and like baseball the more likely it is the family will want to go to games.

  • Mark Twain

    Why should the city pay for the renovation? Bob Rich is a billionaire and can afford it, and it is not likely they are going to move somewhere else.

    • WHAT?

      Have you seen the revenue figures for minor league baseball? I doubt this team has turned a justifiable (acceptable return on investment) profit in decades. It's already a charity case.

  • Ron Reinhardt

    How about Americans eating smaller portions of food so they'd fit into those seats.

    • Zachary Schalberg

      Gr8 b8 m8.

  • Michael DiPasquale

    And.....why is the city going to pay for wider seats? i was there a few weeks ago and the seats were very comfortable.

About the reporters

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered colleges for The Buffalo News since 1999. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master's degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.