How the City of Williamsport Seized a Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity to Host a Major League Baseball Game

Visionary planning by the City of Williamsport, PA gave local officials a very rare opportunity to host the  inaugural MLB Little League Classic, a nationally televised official Major League Baseball game during the 2017 Little League World Series, placing the city in a very positive national spotlight and helping MLB to reach new audiences.

A year earlier, the City had begun a $1.1 million renovation project at its historic BB&T Ballpark, the nation’s second oldest minor league baseball field. The project focused on developing improvements to a spectator seating area accommodating about 180 fans, sponsored by local health care provider UPMC Susquehanna and dubbed “Loggers Landing.”

The Landing’s key features were a private bar, concession stand and tableside service. Williamsport based architect Anthony Visco and Associates led the design with Larson Design Group providing engineering design services for structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering.

At the mid-way point of the upgrade, MLB approached the City to propose a once in a lifetime opportunity to host the Classic, a regulation game at BB&T Ballpark pitting the St. Louis Cardinals against their division rival Pittsburgh Pirates.

MLB’s consultants and the City started planning for the game in January 2017, with a fixed, scheduled game date of Aug. 20, 2017. However, the stadium tenants, the Williamsport Crosscutters Class A Short Season team of the Philadelphia Phillies, requested that renovations be completed earlier, by June 19, in anticipation of their home opener.

With an expanded scope, planners had just six months instead of eight to bring the stadium up to MLB’s rigorous standards, and the overall investment in the ballpark grew to nearly $3 million.

Also known as Historic Bowman Field, the ballpark was built in 1926, resulting in technical challenges to bring the ballpark to MLB standards. To play a major league game on a minor league field, additional improvements were required and had to be in place by the Crosscutters deadline. Once again, Visco and Associates turned to LDG for engineering solutions to support new dugouts which MLB required.

Another member of MLB’s team, the Canadian production company BaAM Productions, selected LDG to furnish select project management and surveying services to assist with its site planning and location of temporary structures. LDG’s Geospatial team provided BaAM with a 3D scan and survey of the park for planning purposes which allowed the global architectural firm Populous of Kansas City to design adjustments of seating and field dimensions.  In addition, the landscape design firm of BrightView of Plymouth Meeting, PA designed a new playing surface including an overhaul of drainage, irrigation and playing surface grades to meet MLB’s strict specifications.

The result was an impressive, game-ready playing field and stadium. On a picture-perfect summer evening, the 2,600 seats were filled with Little League players from all over the world, their families, Governor Tom Wolf, MLB officials and a few fortunate Williamsport residents. The Pirates beat the Cardinals 6-3, with each team wearing specially designed, colorful uniforms replicating a Little League look and feel.

“This was a rewarding project,” said LDG project manager Stefanie English. “BB&T Ballpark is a local landmark, and it was a pleasure to be a part of giving it new life.”

Added LDG project manager Chris Keiser, “The challenge with this project was coordinating with so many different consultants to help get the project done on time.”  The best part of the project, he said, was “helping a community asset to shine.”

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