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Binghamton - Its Future

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  • Binghamton - Its Future

    Binghamton, Rumble Ponies Earn a Clutch Save

    Richard C. David, Fred Akshar and John Hughes; PressConnect
    Published 15 Dec 2018, 8:00 PM ET

    A short time ago, our community fretted over the future of professional baseball in Binghamton. Knowing what we know now, the rumors and speculation about the New York Mets’ Double-A team moving were real. We were close to seeing a beloved franchise and New York affiliate leave for good.

    But Rumble Ponies owner John Hughes stepped in. In purchasing the team, Hughes has embraced our community, transformed the gameday experience, and given back to the fans and organizations that make our region thrive. The team has raised nearly $100,000 for local charities in three years. Last season, we saw the team’s best attendance numbers in 25 years.

    Despite all the momentum, our aging NYSEG Stadium — a city-owned asset that opened in 1992 — was no longer meeting the requirements of Eastern League Baseball.

    Last season, we spoke to the families, season ticket holders and local businesses who spend their summers supporting the team. For many of Binghamton’s children, a few nights at the ballpark is the only summer vacation they get. Fans, umpires and players dealt with a nonfunctioning scoreboard and dying public address system. The infield was cited as one of the worst in minor league baseball.

    Eastern League President Joe McEacharn notified the city that Rumble Ponies games couldn’t be played at NYSEG Stadium in 2019 unless certain deficiencies were addressed.

    Mayor Richard David, Sen. Fred Akshar, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and John Hughes worked out a deal to address the deficiencies and keep baseball in Binghamton for years to come.

    Senator Akshar and Leader Flanagan did their part and secured $2.5 million from New York state. The funding, while critical to the project, was not a blank check. It was contingent on a financial match from the city, which together leveraged a commitment from team ownership to stay at the ballpark. The funding could not be used for any other project, only to keep professional baseball as an important part of our community’s quality of life.

    It worked.

    Under the agreement, the Binghamton Rumble Ponies extended their lease through the 2026 season. The New York Mets extended their player development contract in through 2022, furthering their commitment and belief in Binghamton. Negotiations are underway on a new lease to secure the team beyond 2026.

    In only three years, Rumble Ponies ownership has put more than $700,000 in private funding into a stadium it doesn’t own.

    It’s not just minor league baseball fans who benefit from stadium investments. It’s home to high school championships, concerts and large community events. The stadium provides hundreds of summer jobs for local youths and a safe, affordable family entertainment venue.
    Click image for larger version  Name:	636649953350828191-0617-RumblePonies-JimCiotoli.jpg?width=540&height=405&fit=crop.jpg Views:	1 Size:	47.9 KB ID:	5129
    A Rumble Ponies game in Binghamton. (Photo: Jim Ciotoli)

    With a hard deadline of Opening Day to finish the project, City Hall moved quickly to complete the deal. The April 11, 2019 timeline was a challenge, as additional delays would mean vendors couldn’t guarantee work completion by season’s start. City Council understood this and supported calling a special meeting, where a bipartisan majority voted to accept the state funding and commit the local match. Support came from both of the body’s Democrats, including the council member whose district the stadium calls home.

    In musing about the process under which the extension was made public and approved by City Council, a recent guest viewpoint remarked “citizens and taxpayers deserve better.”

    To this point, we want to be clear: Residents of Binghamton and the Southern Tier deserve leaders who fight on their behalf to deliver results and take action before it’s too late — not another false narrative from a former official and perennial candidate who had chances to turn obstacles into opportunities, but never stepped up to the plate.

    Too often, we hear frustration when businesses close, programs shut down or sports teams leave town with no mention of the steps taken, or not taken, to keep institutions here in the first place.

    Hall of Fame baseball manager Tommy Lasorda has a great saying: “There are three types of baseball players: Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happens.”

    Southern Tier baseball fans and families know which category their elected officials should operate in. Teamwork and action secured baseball in Binghamton for years to come.

    Richard C. David, a Republican, is the mayor of Binghamton. Sen. Fred Akshar, R-Colesville, represents the Binghamton area in the state Senate. John Hughes is the owner of the Binghamton Rumble Ponies.
    Drew's Sig

  • #2
    I was thinking that a 26 year old stadium should not be in THAT bad a shape, but if the infield was unplayable and even little things like the PA system not working were going on, there had to be pretty deep issues that needed addressing.

    For an ownership group to put $700 K of their own money into a stadium that they don't even own shows a dedication that not many owners are willing to put up, kudos to them, and it sounds like the city and state are stepping up, too.

    I like the AA team in that location, there is a organizational history there.

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