Pat Thomas Stadium is in the final phase of a $750,000 renovation project that has lasted nearly 3 years. The final portion of that renovation is currently underway. The stadium is in the process of removing the infield clay that has been there for decades and has finally come to the end of its life.
(Bulldozers moved out onto the field Friday morning as the clay surface is to be dug up and a new surface put down. The field will remain natural grass, thankfully.)
The good news for players is that the infield clay is the only thing being replaced. The field is not becoming artificial turf, which some had feared. Pat Thomas Stadium has one of the most beautiful natural grass surfaces in Central Florida and we are so happy to see it stay that way. While other fields may be turf, baseball was meant to play on grass. Natural grass is much safer for athletes and it keeps the playing surface cooler. We are so gald to see Leesburg keeping player safety in mind.
“We are happy to keep a natural grass surface at Pat Thomas Stadium,” Leesburg Lightning President Tyler Brandeburg says. “The only thing being touched is the clay infield and the rebuilding of the pitchers mound. The surface will remain natural grass indefinitely at this point.”
(Piles of grass and clay begin to pile up on the infield portion of Pat Thomas Stadium. The new renovation will last for decades to come.)
The infield, which is made of clay, was dried out and required a ton of work at the end of its life, especially this season. Michael T., who takes care of the property, did an incredible job at getting this much life out of the surface, but now a new clay base made of an 80/20 composite will take its place.
“The infield clay was a few decades old and just worn out,” Tyler says. “We had already had a $500,000 renovation to paint the stadium and bring it up to modern code standards. Now this is the final phase of the project, which will add a new clay infield, new industrial fans for the grandstands, new wood in the dugouts and an extension of the fencing.”
(The Leesburg Lightning have been rated #1 in attendance for years. Fans will be happy to know that giant fans will be installed under the covered portion of the grandstands next year providing a fan friendly breeze on gamedays.)
He went on to say that “this is very exciting for the town of Leesburg to invest in the Venetian Gardens area. We had the new Venetian Center open a few years ago, the remodeled Lake Harris Boat Club, the brand new Ski Beach Bar and Grill and Pat Thomas Stadium. This entire area has seen tremendous positive change in just a few years and we could not be happier with how it has turned out.”
The new renovations will also have a positive impact on fans in the covered grandstands. New industrial strength fans will provide a breeze for the spectators watching high school and professional events. This is a welcomed addition to the stadium that oftentimes would bake in the sun for an hour before it would set during games.
(The dust was a notable problem for years at Pat Thomas. Here you can see the dust just staying in the air. When there was no breeze the dust would linger and blow in players eyes during play.)
Among other things, players will notice a new professional grade surface when they return next year. The new renovations to the dugouts will help and the batting cages will also be upgraded as well. The stadium also got a new Turf Tank, which paints lines but takes the human element out of line painting. Gone are the days of humans having to keep a line painter straight with chalk lines. The Turf Tank does it all remotely. This thing drives around and makes lines perfect. The new robot is a big assistance to field crew.
(Meet the new Lake County Turf Tank. This is a robot that paints lines on field and removes the human element from the challenges of line painting.)
I asked Tyler what other upgrades in the future might come to Pat Thomas Stadium.
“We are working towards getting a new lighting system in place for the stadium,” he says. “We are hoping that when work begins on new lighting for the Sleepy Hollow Complex that we can also bring a modern updated lighting system to Pat Thomas stadium. That is on the agenda in the coming years.”
We are so happy that the City of Leesburg has continued to invest in this area. It is a very historic section of Leesburg and to see it all get a new lease on life has been so positive! We are grateful for the commissioners and it has been a great year for them. New businesses are opening everywhere in Leesburg. It is amazing to see this city have positive vibes after years of seeing it neglected. The new commissioners and city members have a great vision in store for Leesburg and we are so happy to see that!