BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) – Baseball teams are training hard for the opening day of Appalachian League play next week. However, the Bristol State Liners are up against a different kind of deadline.
Construction needs to start soon on a new home field for the team. If the project can’t get done by the start of next season, the Bristol area may be without its baseball team.
The team currently calls Boyce Cox Field home in Bristol, Virginia. However, the team is planning a move to Whitetop Creek Park in Bristol, Tennessee.
Boyd Sports President Chris Allen said there’s an urgency to get the deal done.
“If it doesn’t get done, there’s a real good chance the Bristol area, in general, will lose their Appalachian League baseball team,” Allen said.
The next phase to move the team south of State Street is securing funding for the plan. The City of Bristol, Tennessee plans to pay $5 million of the $7 million price tag. Boyd Sports is set to pay around $2 million.
City officials in Bristol, Tennessee are currently working through how the city can pay the $5 million figure. The first reading of the budget for the next fiscal year is scheduled for next Tuesday at the city council’s regularly scheduled meeting.
One of the existing Whitetop Creek Park ballfields is expected to be the next home of the State Liners. Bristol Director of Community Relations Jon Luttrell said the city views the proposed project as a huge asset.
Luttrell said upgrades to the park could be beneficial for the city beyond just Appy League play. He said the facility could be used for several different events.
“The amount of development interest we’re seeing in the south of Bristol, I think, it’s a huge potential asset that we can take advantage of,” Luttrell said.
The goal is to get the ball rolling soon on upgrades to the fields at Whitetop Creek Park. Allen said there are several upgrades needed to bring the fields up to the standards of the Appy League.
“We need to push the fences back so we can get more of a collegiate dimension,” Allen said. “They’re going to bring in stadium seats, locker rooms, and we would need concessions.”
The State Liners begin their season on June 6. Their first home game is June 8 against the Kingsport Axmen.