ALEXANDRIA — It’s a big job — the quest for the person or group that can tell the city what can and should — or shouldn’t — be done with Bringhurst Field.
The goal is to bring the historic baseball stadium into the 21st century while maintaining its history, hopefully all within a budget of $3 million.
Alexandria Mayor Jacques M. Roy and his staff Tuesday released a request for experts who may be able to do a feasibility study on what might be done for Bringhurst and how much it may cost.
The bigger question may be whether or not there is someone out there to heed the call and eventually help bring the field, built in 1933, back to life.
“We want a qualified group to come in and tell us what is feasible,” Roy said. “We don’t have the knowledge of ballfields needed, so we need experts.”
In late July, major structural problems were identified at the wooden ballpark on Masonic Drive, and a plan was put in place that limited access while allowing the Alexandria Aces to finish their baseball season. The facility then was closed.
Then came the “what next?” phase.
The city administration began working on an analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to include in the call to experts.
“It’s important to include all that information ... so that any firm that makes a proposal has all the information — good and bad — so that we get an accurate view of what it will take to bring Bringhurst back,” Roy said.
The request is a detailed document outlining what the city wants and needs regarding Bringhurst Field. It pulls no punches, outlining the field’s strengths and weaknesses. Both lists are long, but the weaknesses list could be called daunting.
Among the ballpark’s strengths are its history. It has been home to four professional baseball teams and is one of only a few wooden ballparks still in existence in the nation.
It also is in a growing area and is the only large-scale stadium dedicated as a spectator sport facility in the region, according to the request.
Its weaknesses, however, cannot be ignored. Among them are the deteriorating metal superstructure and wooden bleachers, safety concerns, replacing the perimeter fence, lighting and sod, noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act standards, insufficient drainage and more. Still, some still see opportunities for Bringhurst even if there is a point at which the city balks at spending money.
Councilman Chuck Fowler said he doesn’t know what that number is, but he does know that the end product has to give Bringhurst Field real value, not just a perceived value.
“I’d like to keep it open,” Fowler said. “It has historic significance and nostalgic significance for a lot of citizens. I played high school baseball and summer baseball there. ... But it has to have real worth.
“If it can be fixed, affordable and usable, then we should do it. But if not, we would have to look at tearing it down and maybe building something somewhere else.”
The request encourages those interested to look at the possibilities of creating a mixed-use recreation facility, a place for food and beverage retail partners, an entertainment venue and expansion to allow for more consumers.
The unknown is the cost and whether or not the city and its taxpayers will be committed to reviving Bringhurst Field. The city, in the request, even cites the top weakness as the “cost of restoration v. rebuilding difficult to determine here.”
Responses to the request are expected in the next few weeks. The deadline is Jan. 11.
“We are absolutely committed to keeping it there as a usable and viable venue, because it is so important to the community,” Councilwoman Mitzi Gibson said.
But Gibson admits there is a number that would make the renovation of Bringhurst Field unfeasible, but says “an absolute maximum number, however, has not been determined.”
She said that should cost be too high, she would hope there was another answer.
“In this age of public and private collaboration, maybe we could pull some help from the private sector,” she said. “That is a hope that I certainly hold out for.”
Roy said he believes there is a strong contingent of people in the private sector who support saving Bringhurst Field.