Future of Centennial questioned

There were times when the Centennial Field stands were filled by nearly 60,000 fans in a season, when the paint was fresh and the field top-quality. The field is now home to the Vermont Lake Monsters minor league team, and has been since 1994. The permanency of this, however, is now being questioned as the Lake Monsters have been told that they cannot compete in the minor leagues with such a rundown stadium. According to The Burlington Free Press, studies for the Commissioner of Major League Baseball in recent years have shown serious defects with the park, including unsafe conditions for the players and fans. Engineering Ventures, a consulting firm, is studying what improvements and associated costs would be needed if the field and stadium were to be used for minor league baseball for the next 25 plus years, Richard Cate, vice president for UVM Finance and Administration said. Problems with the field include an unlevel playing field, poor lighting and substandard clubhouses, dugouts and bullpens. According to WCAX, this testing, estimated at $50,000, was paid for by UVM, the Lake Monsters, a private donor and the city of Burlington. If the field is not renovated, the Vermont Lake Monsters will need to find a new home base if they wish to remain active in minor league baseball.  “Nobody really wants it to leave. We don’t want to leave. And we need to do something about it to make sure it stays,” Nate Cloutier, general manager of the Lake Monsters told WCAX in an interview regarding the aging stadium. On the Lake Monster’s website, Centennial Field is referred to as one of the highest quality fields around, having been recognized for excellence by sources such as Beam Clay, the Sports Turf Manager’s Association and Sports Turf Magazine. “The field is okay for a college baseball field,” sophomore club baseball member Colby Morgan said. “However, it is not good for a professional baseball field and the Lake Monsters should do something about that.” The field is currently used by UVM for practices and club sports, but with last year’s abolishment of UVM’s baseball and softball teams, pricey renovations in order to bring the field up to minor league baseball standards are highly unlikely. “Our school made thequestionable decision to cut the program and, therefore, there isn’t any worth in investing so much money into a larger stadium.” Morgan said. “If the reasoning of renovation is to maintain the professional team, than it should be up to the professional organization [Washington Nationals] to do the renovating.” Cloutier said he believes the Lake Monsters promote and bring money into the Vermont area. “Every time we go on the road we’re promoting Vermont and tourism and stuff like that. Never mind the money that stays in state through concessions,” Cloutier told WCAX. “We employ over 100 people in the summer, there’s going to be a lot to lose.” Despite the benefits that the Lake Monsters provide, the University will not be paying to renovate the field or stadium unless it determines at a later date that such improvements are needed to meet UVM purposes. “The field generally serves UVM’s purposes in its current condition and we do not need a baseball stadium,” Cate said. According WCAX, financial responsibility for the project will now fall on the city of Burlington, which will still need help from private, local, state and federal resources in order to raise enough money to meet minor league baseball standards.