When the Macon Bacon takes the field next summer, fans will be able to enjoy a ballpark with old charm and new perks.
A backhoe tore off a section of the gate surrounding Luther Williams Field on Monday, signaling the start of renovations to the historic venue in Central City Park.
More than 100 community members and officials attended the groundbreaking ceremony, which was followed by a free lunch with grilled hot dogs and hamburgers.
The nickname for Macon's Coastal Plain League team was unveiled in September, and team members are being recruited. Team President Todd Pund said he's been told that Macon Bacon has a "pretty good roster" with a "very Southeastern flavor."
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Facility upgrades should be completed around May 1, with regional high school baseball games scheduled at the field in mid-May. A total of $2.5 million in special purpose sales tax proceeds has been budgeted for the renovations, which will be performed by Warren Associates. The last upgrades to the ballpark happened in the early 1990s, Pund said.
"We all thought that this was a win-win proposition, to get baseball back to Luther Williams," Mayor Robert Reichert said. "We're doing great things with the SPLOST money all over this community, so thank you for making that happen.
"We're excited about what we can do here at Luther Williams."
Additions will include a large group area on the third-base side that can accommodate 120 people, outdoor cabana suites on the first-base side, VIP front-row seats, a 2,000-square foot beer garden, and a children's play area, Pund said. Plans also call for expanded concession areas, a team store and a pregame picnic area, according to Telegraph archives.
The main seating area will be cleaned up and repainted, some seats will be replaced, the concrete will be smoothed and painted, and locker rooms and restrooms will be renovated. Plumbing and power upgrades also are coming.
"It is a modern version to an old historic facility," Pund said. "It really is a community asset. It's more than just Macon Bacon. It's what we can do and other events we can bring into town."
Luther Williams Field was built in 1929 for about $60,000, said Warren Selby Jr. with Warren Associates. It's the second oldest minor league stadium in the United States. The renovations will preserve the historic nature of Luther Williams Field while enhancing the atmosphere with the new outfield venues, Reichert said.
"One of our goals is to come out and provide family entertainment ... that you can come out have a great experience, one that will leave you wanting to come back," Pund said. "You can expect a well-scripted, entertaining atmosphere. We realize not everyone is going to be a baseball fan, but we are fans of entertainment. It's going to be our job to provide an entertaining experience."