The Buffalo Bisons are still in the final weeks of their 2016 baseball season, but already making plans for the off-season and next season. This includes capital improvements at Coca Cola Field, most notably the replacement of more original red seats with new, wider green units like the ones installed last year.
Off-season plans include the start of phase two of a stadium seating replacement project. Nearly 2,900 new, wider seats will be installed in the lower section of Coca Cola Field, similar to those installed in special reserve sections prior to the start of the 2015 season.
"There'll be three sections more of seats down the third base line and four sections of seats down the first base line," said Bisons spokesman Brad Bisbing. "About 6,200 of our seats at the ballpark will be the new, more comfortable, larger seats."
The new seats will replace the original red ones that have been a fixture in the city-owned stadium since it first opened in 1988 as Pilot Field. The new units are about three inches wider. Thus, capacity will be reduced for 2017 to 16,907 seats. Plans call for eventual replacement of all red seats.
The City of Buffalo, which owns Coca Cola Field, is paying for the project through its Capital Bond funds. When the stadium first opened, it was designed to possibly expand to accommodate a Major League Baseball franchise. Buffalo never got one of the National League's two expansion clubs in the early 1990s (Denver and Miami were awarded the franchises), but city officials are expressing their commitment to keeping Coca Cola Field a gem among minor league ballparks.
"We want to make sure that this facility, that has served so well for so may years, gets the improvements that it needs so it can continue to be one of the best minor league ballparks in the entire nation," said Buffalo mayor Byron Brown.
The Bisons have also released their 2017 schedule, which includes a home opener slated for Thursday, April 6 against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
Next season will mark the 30th for the Bisons in their downtown ballpark.