Elizabethton reaches agreement with Minnesota Twins

John Thompson • Updated Sep 14, 2017 at 10:32 PM

ELIZABETHTON — The long relationship between the Minnesota Twins and the city of Elizabethton will continue after a unanimous vote by the Elizabethton City Council on Thursday night.

The vote approved a memorandum of understanding for $1.5 million in renovations to Joe O'Brien Field, the home field of the Elizabethton Twins.

Although it was not a part of the packet of material provided to council members on the memorandum, Mayor Curt Alexander said there is also a new five-year contract with the Minnesota Twins to base its rookie-level team in Elizabethton.

The relationship between the Twins and Elizabethton has existed since 1974 and includes 11 Appalachian League championships. Joe O'Brien Field was built in 1974, when it was announced the Twins would field an Appalachian League team in the city.

For much of the year, there was uncertainty as to whether 2017 might be the last year of the relationship. Negotiations between the city and the team on renovations became dormant for several months. City Council established a baseball task force to work out a possible solution.

Much of the renovation plan comes from the ideas worked out by the task force after talking with both sides. One of the task force members, Richard Barker, who is a grandson of Joe O'Brien, is a banking executive in Elizabethton and advised on the financing of the renovations.

As a sign of the renewed good relations with the Minnesota Twins, Alexander said Dave St. Peter, president of the Major League organization has already signed the memorandum of understanding prior to action by the city council.

The memorandum of understanding covers the design, development and construction of the renovations. As part of the agreement, the city and the Twins agree that the principal objectives are to "improve the baseball player development facilities within the ballpark to a level meeting the minimum Minor League standards" and to "ensure the continued use of the ballpark as the home venue to the Elizabethton Twins."

The renovation plan will be based on the Pulaski renovation. It will include a new 5,500 square-foot home clubhouse which will have a 1,100 square-foot locker room with 38 lockers. Other amenities will be a player bathroom and shower, player lounge, training room, weight room, video room, laundry room, manager's office and coaches room.

The cost of the facility will be paid by the city. The Twins will provide equipment for player development, including balls, bats, uniforms, hats, training tables, training supplies, weight room equipment, hydro tubs, and food service equipment.

The plans for the renovation must be approved by Sept. 25. Construction may begin as early as Nov. 1, but not later than Jan. 31, 2018. The renovations should be completed by May 15, 2018.

In other matters, City Council voted on second and final reading to approve an ordinance revision that prohibita the sale, possession and discharge of fireworks inside the city.

The decision was 6-1, with Councilman Kim Birchfield objecting. The vote was taken after a public discussion during which Valley Forge Auction and Wholesale sought relief. Owner Willie McVey said the company recently began wholesaling fireworks to places like Atlanta and Charlotte. He said that while that is a small percentage of his company's bottom line, it did represent an important part of the business during the Fourth of July, when it is hot in the company's warehouse and cash flow is at low levels.

The council also adopted the 2017 edition of the City of Elizabethton Personnel Rules and Regulations.

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