Upgrades to Schaumburg Boomers' stadium to match Rosemont's? Officials decide they're not needed
Ambitious and costly upgrades planned for the 20-year-old baseball stadium that houses the Schaumburg Boomers are being shelved for now after competition for fans with Rosemont's new Impact Field in 2018 proved less than anticipated.
The decision puts the village of Schaumburg and Schaumburg Park District -- co-owners of Boomers Stadium -- back on the same page in prioritizing basic maintenance over major changes.
Park district officials, who rely more on property taxes than the village, were reluctant to move forward with a consultant's recommendation for $13 million in upgrades that evolved into a four-year, $10.5 million plan a year ago.
But even as it turns 20, there is renewed confidence in the drawing power of the Schaumburg stadium built to the same dimensions as Wrigley Field.
"It's still the best stadium in the suburbs and in the league the Boomers are in," Village Manager Brian Townsend said.
Boomers General Manager Michael Larson said the village's concerns about the new facility in Rosemont weren't necessarily unfounded.
"You're still trying to compete not only with a new team but all the other opportunities that exist in the market," Larson said.
The suburbs are also home to the Kane County Cougars, a Class A Minor League Baseball team affiliated with the Arizona Diamondbacks that plays in the Midwest League. Their home games are played at Northwestern Medicine Field in Geneva.
The Boomers' 2018 attendance remained at the top of the 12-member Frontier League and also outperformed the Chicago Dogs in Rosemont, who ended up seventh among the dozen clubs in their American Association.
While both teams had 47 dates in 2018, the Boomers drew 149,225 fans -- an average 3,176 a game -- while the Dogs brought in 138,855 or 2,954 per game, according to the websites of their respective leagues.
Boomers attendance did decline about 7 percent, or more than 11,000 people, from 2017, when the same number of regular-season openings drew 160,644 fans, or an average 3,418 a game. The Boomers were third-time Frontier League champions in 2017 and brought in 5,514 more fans over the course of four playoff games at home.
Park district Executive Director Tony LaFrenere said he doubted a new stadium in Rosemont would draw many Boomers fans east to where O'Hare and city congestion begin. Both the Rosemont team's location and name seemed designed to draw Chicago residents west rather than suburbanites east.
"Most people I talk to want to stay in their own local area," LaFrenere said.
He added that park officials are pleased to again be in agreement with the village in focusing improvements at the stadium on safety.
The budgeted capital projects at Boomers Stadium for the fiscal year beginning May 1 total $480,576. They include concrete and elevator repairs, replacement of seating anchor bolts and expansion joints in the precast concrete, and the annual sealcoating of the parking lots.
As with most improvements at the stadium, the village will pay the full costs upfront and be reimbursed for half by the park district, Townsend said.
But some other upgrades above and beyond structural maintenance also are underway this offseason.
After a slight delay, the stadium now has safety netting extended to the new recognized standard of the outside ends of the dugouts to protect fans from foul balls. The stadium's new netting is of a higher, thinner grade to improve the visibility from the stands.
And before Opening Day 2019, the team will invest $25,000 to transform the underused press box on the upper level into a Jim Beam Club and bar for suite ticketholders.
The latter is probably the closest thing to the type of cosmetic changes the village and park district had been contemplating, but it is being done without public funding.
Among consultants' 2017 recommendations not currently being pursued are renovating the party deck in left field, adding an upper level to the team store, replacing several grandstand seats with terrace seats and tables, updating the suites, adding more electrical outlets along the concourse to allow for more portable vendors, and installing artificial turf on the field to increase the number of events the stadium can host.