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New facility standards puts future of Arkansas Travelers into limbo

New facility standards for Minor League parks has put the future of where the Travelers will play in the future, but no one can agree on who should foot the bill.

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Baseball season is upon us with opening night for the Arkansas Travelers just two weeks away. 

But behind the scenes, necessary stadium upgrades are causing some back and forth between the Travelers and the City of North Little Rock.

It all comes down to who is responsible for paying for those upgrades at Dickey-Stephens Park. 

It's all part of the new facility standards for Minor League parks by Major League Baseball.

But right now no one can agree on who should foot the bill.

For 15 years, spring and summer nights have been filled with cheers along the Arkansas River.

"We want to keep baseball here at Dickey Stephens Park. We don't want to go anywhere," Arkansas Travelers CEO Rusty Meeks said.

But now the question of whether it will stay in North Little Rock is up in the air and it all comes down to who is going to write the check.

"We've been in negotiations about this since, I don't know maybe over a year now, because we kind of knew what was coming up," North Little Rock Mayor Terry Hartwick said.

What was coming up was new facility standards for the park from the MLB. 

According to Meeks this includes things like new AC units, new lights, a new female locker room and more.

"We pay rent to the city and this is their stadium. They own this the stadium and so we're just asking that they get their stadium in compliance and we can keep baseball here," he said.

Meeks said if these updates aren't done the Travelers could be moved and the deadline is only one year away.

"2023 is really when we need to be in compliance with most of this stuff. You know, as of right now, I don't see that happening," he said.

While the team believes it's the city's responsibility, Hartwick said that's not what's in writing.

"By the contract we have with Dickey Stephens it says they're responsible for the capital improvements, and me as being the mayor, have not got a choice in this. I've got to do what the contract says," he said.

Hartwick said the city is already spending about $6 million to fix sinkholes at the park and these new standards would cost about $5 million more.

"Me personally, I love the Travs. I love going to the ball games, but as far as breaking a contract that both entities assign...can't do that," he said.

While there are disagreements of who is supposed to pay, neither side wants to move the beloved team.

"We're all a family over here and we want to stay here and we want to keep it here and people love this stadium, so we want to do everything we can to make sure it stays," Meeks said.

"We want the Travelers, we fought hard for them. We love that they're here," Hartwick said.

We see these situations a lot in other big cities. 

Just today, Monday March 28, New York State announced a deal that involves the state sending $1.4 billion to the Buffalo Bills and there's a big effort to try to build a new stadium for the Washington Commanders in our nation's Capitol.

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