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North Little Rock City Council approves improvements to Dickey-Stephens Park

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KUAR News
Disagreements between North Little Rock and the Arkansas Travelers over financial responsibility for mandatory upgrades have raised questions on whether the team will remain in the city.

Members of the North Little Rock City Council have approved up to $1.5 million to go toward improvements to Dickey-Stephens Park, the home field of the Arkansas Travelers Minor League Baseball team. But that's far short of the total needed to bring the ballpark up to new standards.

In a meeting on Monday, City Attorney Amy Fields said the contracts being voted on were for specific improvements.

“It’s designing, planning for the field, root zone selection oversight, sod selection oversight, irrigation design and installation,” Fields said. “It includes the whole design, sodding and irrigation for the baseball field.”

Two years ago, Major League Baseball (MLB) announced new mandates for minor league baseball stadiums, including improvements to clubhouses and better lighting. Upgrading Dickey-Stephens Park to comply with the new requirements will cost an estimated $7 million. The city and the Arkansas Travelers are negotiating an additional $5.6 million in improvements.

Disagreements between the city and the Travelers over financial responsibility for the upgrades have prompted the team to threaten to leave North Little Rock. Mayor Terry Hartwick and council member Steve Baxter said the improvements voted on Monday were part of a contract negotiated prior to the MLB’s new mandates.

“Let me go ahead and stress by talking to our city attorney this is something our contract said we should take care of,” Hartwick said.

The Travelers generate about $3.91 million in sales each year, according to Dun & Bradstreet, a publicly traded company that tracks data on businesses.