New seating at First Data Field in St. Lucie West, where the New York Mets play spring training games, is too important to fans to cut from St. Lucie County’s $57 million renovation project.
County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to order new chairs for the 7,000-seat stadium by Friday’s deadline. The seating costs $334,500. “This way, everything starts off fresh,” said Commissioner Frannie Hutchinson during an Aug. 13 meeting.
Commissioners previously considered trying to save about $200,000 by recycling the seat backs, but decided fans want new seats to be part of the makeover of the county-owned baseball complex. “I did a tour out there and in that stadium the seating is a must,” Commissioner Sean Mitchell said on Aug. 13.
The county is trying to cope with $1.6 million in cost overruns on the project, which started last March and is expected to be largely completed in time for spring training in February.
The commissioners also discussed asking the Mets to chip in for seat covers to protect the new seats from the baking Florida sun. County officials are trying to determine how much the covers would cost.
Nearly $1.2 million in unanticipated costs were added to the project in the form of drawings, contract management fees and other fees, county records show.
Elevator renovation costs exceeded estimates by $377,452. New county office space is $112,893 over budget and maintenance shop upgrades are $90,000 over budget.
Also over budget are aisle handrails by $54,648 and the minor league clubhouse roof by $46,488, county records show.
The county budgeted $55 million for the renovation and the Mets are paying $2 million.
The county borrowed $60 million in June 2017 to cover the renovations and retire $5 million in debt from an earlier stadium project. The loan is being repaid with tourist tax revenue.
The developer of St. Lucie West attracted the Mets, built the stadium in 1987 and donated the baseball complex land to the county. The first game was played in the former Thomas J. White Stadium in 1988.