The Pittsburgh Pirates will mark 50 years of Bradenton spring training at LECOM Park in 2018, as team president Frank Coonelly promises the team will be there for a “long, long time.”
Coonelly made his remarks to a meeting of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation, where he unveiled a new logo to celebrate the relationship. The Pirates certainly have made a commitment to Bradenton in recent years, coordinating renovations at both LECOM Park (the former McKechnie Field) and Pirate City. The team has been a solid draw since. From Bradenton.com:
Coonelly held out hope that more economic development would come to the area around LECOM Park, but it takes time, just as it did around PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
The baseball executive also focused on other contributions offered by the Pirates organization.
“It brings joy to so many people in the community,” Coonelly said, quoting Pirates Hall of Famer Willie Stargell: “When they start the game, they don’t yell, ‘Work ball.’ They say, ‘Play ball.’ ”
The Pirates certainly have developed into an institution in western Florida; only the Detroit Tigers, Lakeland and Tiger Town can complete in terms of a long-term relationship.