The Springfield Cardinals play the Wichita Wind Surge on the opening weekend of their 18th season at Hammons Field. Wichita won the April 6 game 4-1. (Photo by Mary Ellen Chiles)

When the City of Springfield purchased Hammons Field and an adjoining parking lot for $12 million earlier this year, an additional $4 million in city government funds were obligated to upgrade the ballpark.

The upgrades are necessary for the home of the Double-A Springfield Cardinals to meet Major League Baseball-mandated facility requirements. However, Missouri government funds will be covering the costs of those upgrades — if Gov. Mike Parson signs off on it. 

There is a $4 million one-time appropriation listed in House Bill 7 that is dedicated to “the maintenance and improvements of a sports complex located in any city with more than one hundred sixty thousand but fewer than two hundred thousand inhabitants.” That would be Hammons Field, Springfield Mayor Ken McClure confirmed. 

The city on Feb. 1 announced it had reached a $16 million deal to purchase and upgrade Hammons Field. The stadium is home to the Springfield Cardinals (né, the Cashew Chickens this weekend), a minor league affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. 

Financial transactions pending

The city used unrestricted money from its general fund and revenue from the city’s level property tax to pay for the stadium purchase. MLB has in recent years set mandatory facility guidelines for affiliated minor league ballparks, and the city intended to set up a $4 million capital improvement fund to address immediate needs, including upgraded stadium lighting, facilities to accommodate female staff members and improvements to the visitors’ clubhouse.

Parson has not yet signed off on the state budget. If the $4 million Hammons Field upgrades appropriation makes it past his red pen, McClure said the city funds that had been dedicated to upgrades will be available for carryover uses to be discussed by city leaders down the road. The state funds would cover the immediate needs the city had previously outlined, from the lights to the locker room upgrades. 

The Hammons Field appropriation is part of a 32-page bill that includes funding for Missouri’s Department of Economic Development, Department of Commerce and Insurance and the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. The one-time stadium upgrade funding would be drawn from the state’s general revenue fund and is tied to the Department of Economic Development. The appropriation was championed by Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee. 

“Well, certainly, we are very, very grateful,” McClure said of Hough. “He understood the value of keeping the Cardinals here, the value and the need of the city getting the stadium as well as the parking lot.”

Hough could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon. 

The St. Louis Cardinals owned its Springfield affiliate for years and had threatened to leave Springfield during a number of protracted legal battles tied to the stadium’s uncertain ownership situation and a lack of commitments by the previous owner to make MLB-mandated facility improvements. In concert with the city’s purchase announcement, the Cardinals agreed to extend their lease through 2038. The St. Louis Cardinals have since sold the franchise to a holding company that has been acquiring minor league teams at a rapid pace. The lease with the city remains in place.

Cory Matteson

Cory Matteson moved to Springfield in 2022 to join the team of Daily Citizen journalists and staff eager to launch a local news nonprofit. He returned to the Show-Me State nearly two decades after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Prior to arriving in Springfield, he worked as a reporter at the Lincoln Journal Star and Casper Star-Tribune. More by Cory Matteson