http://www.heraldtribune.com/apps/pb.../1099/SPORTS05



dale.white@heraldtribune.com

BRADENTON -- The 1960s-era spring training facility for the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team is getting a complete and long-awaited makeover.

And as part of an upgrade of Pirates spring training facilities, McKechnie Field in Bradenton will for the first time get lights for night games.

This week, crews started demolishing Pirate City's mold-infested dormitories and offices, which have been closed since May 2005.

Nearly a month ago, the state stepped up to the plate to jump-start redevelopment of the city-owned property off 27th Street East -- contributing $15 million toward the $18 million project.

Pirate City is a housing and practice facility for the Pirates, who play spring training games in Bradenton.

The facility will get a new, three-story dorm and office complex, an additional practice field, a renovated and expanded clubhouse, more parking and new fencing.

Upgrades for McKechnie Field, the stadium at Ninth Street and 17th Avenue West where the Pirates play spring games, are included.

The stadium will get amenities such as a new visitors clubhouse, new team clubhouse and the new lights.

The state is also contributing $15 million grants toward new stadiums and training facilities in Sarasota and Charlotte counties.

The city of Sarasota plans a $54 million redevelopment of the Ed Smith Stadium complex where the Cincinnati Reds train.

Construction could begin this summer on a $47 million renovation of a Charlotte County sports complex used for spring training by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.