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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Construction at Digital Domain Park is "On-Schedule"

Construction crews renovating Digital Domain Park — the New York Mets' spring training stadium are on a tight time schedule to complete their work by the start of Grapefruit League play.

The project to replace the right-field line bleachers with premium stadium seating began the second week of November, and with just over six weeks before the March 5 opener, much work remains to be done.

Workers from Straticon Construction began pouring concrete into the brick walls last week, and only the wooden framework for the new seating area was in place.

The Mets and St. Lucie County officials overseeing the project say they are confident it will be ready in time.

"It's extremely tight, but every day I'm on site, the foreman tells me we are on schedule," St. Lucie County Parks Manager for the North Division, Guy Medor said Friday. "There have been no major setbacks, and without a doubt it will be complete.

"They've started to lay out the steel, so we just need to keep it moving along."

Mets Director of Florida Operations Paul Taglieri said there have been weekly meetings with developers and executives from New York, and the club is not concerned about the tight time frame. The new section, Taglieri said, will mirror the terrace along the left-field line.

"They are working ... six days a week, and it will be open for the first game, hopefully before that so whatever adjustments that we need we have that window," Taglieri said. "We're in good shape."

The St. Lucie County Board of Commissioners approved the $2.5 million project Aug. 16, but work couldn't begin until approval for a funding source came through and architectural designs were complete, Medor said.

The county commissioners approved extending the tourist development tax from Jan. 31, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2023, to pay for the project, which now boosts stadium capacity above 8,300 fans and also includes a new video board on the scoreboard.

The Mets also agreed to extend their lease from 2018 to 2023 because of the renovations.

Taglieri said the process leading into the groundbreaking and construction took "a littler longer than expected, but that's the nature of any construction project."

There were some small setbacks that slowed the building process. When digging out the foundation, it was discovered that area of the stadium had been built on muck, which needed to be cleared to create a solid ground for the new seating section.

Medor said that caused a delay of about a week to 10 days.

"That was part of the prep work that took a long time," Medor said. "We want to make sure the construction doesn't settle."

Medor said once the foundation was laid, construction has picked up quickly. Just within the last week, he said he saw major improvements.

Both Medor and Taglieri said they look forward to seeing the final product, as the new section will add 504 more seats and also allows for more storage and a bigger office space underneath for the groundskeepers.

"It's awesome," Taglieri said. "It's great to see it through. I think it's going to be a needed and valued addition. It's going to connect the whole stadium and give every fan an opportunity to experience a first-class facility."

The improvements also could help with efforts to bring in a second team to the facility. Medor said the added space underneath the seating provides for "future expansion," and the Mets reportedly have spoken to at least two teams about the possibility of moving to Port St. Lucie.

Taglieri said the club is "still in the infant stages of looking into that," and how it could be done, but it hasn't made any significant progress yet.

He also said the project was not tied to the Mets' plans to try to lure another team, though renovations make the stadium more attractive to a potential tenant.

The stadium was built in 1986 and has received two sets of renovations since then.

"Aesthetically, it's going to make that area look a whole lot better," Medor said. "It will be pleasing to the eyes. Any renovation is good for your facility and the fan experience."

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