Hard at Work in Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—NASCAR's Daytona 500 may be the talk of the town, but not far from Daytona International Speedway lies one of the busiest construction sites currently on-going in the State of Florida: the renovation of Jackie Robinson Ballpark.

Starting in April, "The Jack," home to the Cubs' Class High-A affiliate of the Florida State League, will take on a new, state of the art look designed to cater more toward fans and attract even more spectators to the area.

Included in the renovations will be a picturesque river walk area at the entrance of the park, a new scoreboard and batting cages, re-furbished clubhouses, restrooms, concession stands and front office facilities, added light fixtures, and a party deck for up to 500 people located above the left field wall.

Currently, only the park's new field lights have been installed and completed. The cost of these renovations will equal an estimated $2 million, according to Daytona General Manager Bill Papierniak.

"Give or take a couple hundred-thousand, that's about where we're at," Papierniak told Inside The Ivy on Friday.

The renovations are funded by three entities: the Cubs and its ownership group, the city of Daytona Beach, and grants from Volusia County and the State of Florida.

Last week, team owner Andy Rayburn, a well-known Cleveland businessman, paid a visit to the park to check in on the status of the upgrades.

"He's very excited, as we all are," said Papierniak, who spent last season as the team's Assistant General Manager to then-GM Michael Swope. "We are very happy to be working on an environment that will be good for the Cubs and for ourselves as well."

Rayburn - who years ago financed the majority of an independent film titled The Year That Trembled, an on-screen version of the novel written by Scott Lax that detailed the Vietnam War crisis in a small Ohio town in 1970 - purchased the Cubs in 2000 and last off-season funded a new state of the art sound system for the park.

Papierniak and his staff also hope to make a big pitch to today's youth with the renovations. Included in the upgrades is the addition of a newly-equipped "Kids Zone" section, which will feature fresh batting cages and playground areas.

"The Kid Zone last year was kind of small and built on some old grass, and honestly it didn't have a good look to it," said Papierniak. "So, we went in and had all the shrubbery taken out and had some fresh mulch put down over the entire area. We have also added some permanent playground equipment to replace the movable plastic stuff we had last year."

The renovations are still well in line to be completed by April 9, when the Cubs play host to rival Brevard County in their 2005 home opener. Employees of the team are currently working out of the former offices of the Florida State League, also located in Daytona Beach.

Last season, the Cubs and Jackie Robinson Ballpark totaled 110,223 fans in attendance for the year—good for second in the league behind only Clearwater's new Bright House Networks Field, which opened in 2004.

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