Will 2023 be the Asheville Tourists’ final season at McCormick Field?

The answer depends on whether or not the minor league team can secure about $30 million in new funding.

McCormick Field

McCormick Field first opened in 1924.

Photo by AVLtoday

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So... what exactly is going on with the Asheville Tourists?

That’s a question many are wondering after the minor league baseball team shared that it may have to leave McCormick Field after its 2023 season. The fate of the team — which has represented Asheville under various monikers since the 1920s — rests on whether or not the Tourists can secure $30 million of upgrades for McCormick Field.

Where will the money come from? As of now, no one knows for certain — but many are eyeing local government entities.

About those upgrades...

In December 2020, the MLB published a new list of requirements for its minor league baseball facilities, the majority of which McCormick Field does not currently meet. That includes: shower facilities for female umpires, a larger press box, weight room upgrades, and more — for a total of $13 million.

We bet you’re wondering “what about the other $17 million?” The rest of the proposed upgrades — including new HVAC systems, updated seating, a replacement scoreboard, and an expansion of guest facilities would work in tandem with the required upgrades.

In an interview with the Asheville Citizen-Times, Asheville Tourists owner Brian DeWine explained the stadium needs these additional funds to “modernize for the 21st century.”

The Asheville Tourists circa 1925

The Asheville Tourists at McCormick Field circa 1925.

Photo via the Buncombe County Special Collections at NC Pack Library

It’s nearly one-hundred-years old

McCormick Field has been around since 1924 and sits at the edge of downtown Asheville — just off Biltmore Avenue. The original $200,000 stadium was named after Dr. Lewis McCormick, a local bacteriologist famous for his “Swat That Fly” campaign. At the time, the Field was known as the “most complete athletic field in the South.”

Over the decades, the stadium has fielded talent like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jackie Robinson. It has also been the headquarters for various teams, including the Asheville Orioles, Asheville Skylanders, and most notably the Asheville Tourists.

In 1992, the stadium was rebuilt for $3 million, which led to the Tourists becoming a longtime affiliate of the Rockies, and more recently the Houston Astros. McCormick Field draws in upwards of 180,000 fans per year and has an annual economic impact of $9.8 million in Buncombe County.

McCormick Field rendering

A rendering of proposed changes for McCormick Field.

Photo via Asheville Tourists

So, who’s gonna foot the bill?

The baseball team’s administration is in conversation with the City of Asheville (the owner of McCormick Field — which leases the building to the Tourists for $1 a year). The Tourists have also asked Buncombe County, the BCTDA, and the state government for funding. So far, no entity has made a formal commitment. (Check out the Asheville Citizen-Times’ coverage for a more detailed budget breakdown).

The clock is ticking

April 1, 2023 is the deadline for the Tourists to develop a funding plan. If the team doesn’t know how to move forward by then, the MLB will start making plans to relocate the team for its 2024 season.

Want to support the team’s efforts to stay in Asheville? Check out this page for more info.

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