EVERETT — The Everett AquaSox could get a new ballpark.
The city of Everett and Snohomish County agreed Wednesday to study the feasibility of a new outdoor multipurpose stadium in Everett.
Their decision was spurred by Major League Baseball’s new standards for minor league clubs like the AquaSox, who have called Everett home since 1984 when they were the Everett Giants. The stadium itself first opened in 1947.
Last year the AquaSox, an affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, were elevated from Class A Short Season to High-A, the third-highest level in baseball’s minor league system. It has a longer season of 132 games, half of which are at home, from April to September. That requires careful scheduling as all three Everett Public Schools high schools as well as Everett Community College use the athletic fields at Everett Memorial Stadium.
It also comes with mandates for the ballpark and clubhouse from Major League Baseball. The requirements include bathroom access from dugouts, specified location of bullpens, facilities for female team staff and umpires, training rooms for the home and visiting teams, and more, as reported by Baseball America.
“Many upgrades are meant to provide a better experience for those who attend,” Everett City Council member Don Schwab said during the council’s meeting Wednesday. “More inclusive facilities foster a better working environment for the players and staff. Unfortunately Funko Field doesn’t fit the bill.”
John Stanton, chairman of the Seattle Mariners Baseball Club, sent a letter in support of the stadium study by the city and county.
“For the past 28 years the Mariners have been proud to partner with the City of Everett and the AquaSox as the home of our affiliate in the Northwest League. This relationship is built on a foundation of sharing baseball and affordable, family-friendly entertainment with fans in Everett, Snohomish County, and the larger North Puget Sound area.
“We know that under the Volpe family’s leadership (Tom Volpe is the leader of the AquaSox’s ownership group), the AquaSox share the goal of assuring inclusive and accessible access for all citizens in our region.”
AquaSox general manager Danny Tetzlaff declined to comment.
During the Snohomish County Council meeting Wednesday, Everett economic development director Dan Eernissee said the options are to raze and rebuild Funko Field or find a new site to construct a new complex. The Snohomish County Council approved the resolution to study the options for a new stadium by a 4-0 vote.
“We’re educators, we’re not landlords,” Everett School District facilities and operations executive director Mike Gunn told The Daily Herald from a conference room that overlooks Funko Field. “We love baseball. We hope they stay in Everett. We hope they stay here.”
Everett Public Schools lease use of the ballpark at 3900 Broadway to the AquaSox on an annual deal that brought in over $100,000 last year. The district puts that money in its capital reserve fund.
In 2018,, the district replaced the dirt and grass field with synthetic turf and redid the drainage system. It cost about $1.6 million, with the AquaSox committing $300,000 toward it over 10 years and the county adding $300,000.
This summer the district replaced the nearby football and soccer field turf as well as the track surface for about $1.4 million. The district also replaced the HVAC and roof on the adjacent athletic building, which the AquaSox use as the clubhouse.
The district spent about $400,000 over the past six years on maintenance at the ballpark, Gunn said. That included handrail repairs, lighting and sound system upgrades, and replacing worn-out seats. Funko Field has a capacity of 3,682 fans.
Cascade, Everett and Jackson high schools use the ballpark and stadium, which also host regional tournaments. The district continues to invest in the ballpark, first and foremost for students to use, Gunn said.
“We’re putting money into this facility to maintain it,” he said. “The facility is in great shape.”
Other minor league teams are going through similar efforts. The Lane County Commission in Eugene, Oregon, approved two tax increases Tuesday that could fund a new baseball stadium for the Eugene Emeralds, who play in the Northwest League with the AquaSox, according to KEZI. The new stadium is estimated to cost up to $80 million, most of which would come from the tax.
Whatever financing is needed for the AquaSox ballpark won’t come with additional taxes, Eernissee told the Everett City Council on Wednesday.
Herald reporter Nick Patterson contributed to this story.