Seating changes in Hillsboro’s new baseball stadium were made to better accommodate fans, including families with small children, according to officials with the city and the Hillsboro Hops baseball COURTESY OF HILLSBORO HOPS - The new seating arrangement in the stadium is shown in this revised Hillsboro Hops rendering from last year. It shows the box seats behind home plate and along the first base line, the bleacher seats along the third base line, and the family seating on the berm behind the third base outfield wall.

The changes include a reduction in the number of bleacher seats, the addition of a substantial number of individual box-style seats and the construction of a large berm behind the third base outfield wall for picnic-type seating.

According to Hops General Manager K.L. Wombacher, the team was not involved in the original design of the $15.2 million stadium because the work began before its move to town was finalized. Once team officials saw the 4,500-seat design, they quickly realized it included far too many bleacher seats, too few individual seats and not enough viewing areas for families.

“Fans these days prefer box seats, and families with small children need options to keeping them seated during the entire game,” he explained.

Wombacher does not blame anyone for the original configuration. He said the city of Hillsboro and Hoffman Construction Co., which won the construction bid, had no experience building minor league baseball stadiums.

“They just weren’t aware of what fans have come to expect,” he said.

Because the team move and stadium construction were both on such a fast track, the city put the stadium out to bid before the Northwest League that sanctions Single-A baseball approved the team’s move from Yakima, Wash. By the time the move got a green light, the city had already awarded the contract to Hoffman Construction.

Work on the stadium is well under way in the Gordon Faber Recreation Complex, which is owned and operated by the Hillsboro Parks & Recreation Department.

Original design not final design

According to Mary Loftin, spokeswoman for Hillsboro Parks & Recreation, the original stadium design was never intended to be the final one. It was always expected to evolve as the team’s needs were discussed.

Wombacher pointed out that after the move was approved last May, he and other team officials began discussing changes in the seating with the city and Hoffman. New configurations began emerging by June. Because individual seats cost more than bleacher seats, the number of permanent seats was reduced by around 1,000 to stay within the construction budget. The new berm is expected to accommodate at least that many people, raising the overall capacity to about 4,800, depending on how people use it. That includes over 40 ADA spaces.

In addition, Wombacher said there are a number of areas where people can stand and watch games, including a beer garden and two concourses. They do not count as part of the stadium capacity.

The changes were discussed at numerous meetings between city and team officials, including some open to the public, explained Loftin.

City and team officials began revising their description of the seating last summer, although not many people may have noticed. The city changed its fact sheet to describe the stadium as having “4,500 capacity” by July, and a revised artist’s rendering with the new berm was posted on the team’s website in August, Wombacher said. Some older Web postings and boilerplate language in press releases did not change as quickly, however.

According to Wombacher, the seating changes allow the team to offer a greater variety of ticket prices. General admission access to the berm and standing areas is $7, bleacher seating is $11, and box seats are $14. Club seats cost $35. A section of lower level box seats for $16 have already sold out.

In the meantime, other changes to the stadium design and unexpected construction difficulties have increased the total cost of the project by $350,000. The changes include the addition of air condition in the team quarters and a 50-foot catch fence to keep balls from reaching Southwest 229th Avenue during games. The difficulties include the discovery of unstable soil in a portion of the construction site. The increase amounts to 2.3 percent of the overall budget. It will be paid with System Development Charges assessed against new developments and dedicated to parks.

The Hillsboro Hops’ opening home game is set for June 17.

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