The Buffalo Bisons figure to have big plans next year for their 25th anniversary season at Coca-Cola Field, highlighted by their host role for the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 11, 2012.
The team is spending the offseason heading into 2011 working on plenty of projects to spruce up the ballpark. A new field and drainage system have already been completed and the team announced at a news conference in the ballpark Wednesday it is installing the largest HD scoreboard in the minors as well as a new energy-efficient lighting system.
Dubbed the "Bisons TV HD Board," the scoreboard will be 80 feet long by 33 feet high -- more than triple the size of the current video board installed in 1999. The team is funding the entire cost of the $2.5 million project, including the board, HD cameras and control booth updates needed.
The video system is not just significant inside the park. Its components will also be used for the team's Internet broadcasts and its television broadcasts on Time Warner Cable and SportsNet New York.
The team also funded the playing field at a cost of about $970,000 and team officials say the Rich family ownership group has invested about $22 million in improvements in the park since it opened in 1988.
Mayor Byron Brown was also on hand in Pettibones Grille to announce that the city is installing the new lighting system to replace the one that was installed at the park during construction in 1987. The corroded outfield light towers will be replaced by versions that will be about 20 feet shorter but provide more light and be cheaper to operate.
Brown said the city is footing that bill, nearly $750,000, and will be eligible for rebates from National Grid for the project that should save more than $565,000 in energy costs over the 25-year life of the system.
"This will ensure Coca-Cola Field's place as one of the premier minor-league parks in all of baseball even though it's 24 years old," said Bisons VP/General Manager Mike Buczkowski. "And it will ensure that this ballpark remains the premier sports and family entertainment venue in our region. It goes without saying it will remain a Buffalo landmark and a place we can all be proud of for many years to come."
Work on the scoreboard has already begun. The former tri-vision ad panels on the left and right side will now be part of the video and more steel will be added to the structure.
Buczkowski said the lighting system will be smaller than the current models, will be computer controlled and less susceptible to movement from the wind.
In other news, Buczkowski expects Buffalo's field staff for 2011 to be finalized next week. Ex-Mets infielder Tim Teufel is likely to be promoted from Double-A Binghamton to become Buffalo manager after Ken Oberkfell became bench coach in New York.
The Bisons' pocket schedules have revealed a small increase in ticket prices. Reserved seats are going up 50 cents, from $11 to $11.50 and $10 to $10.50 ($11.50 on Fridays). General admission has been increased a dollar for adults to $8.50 ($9.50 Fridays), and 50 cents for youths and seniors to $5.50 ($6.50 Fridays).