ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — Dell Diamond, the home of the Round Rock Express for 23 years, is getting a new clubhouse for visiting teams in order to meet new requirements put in place by Major League Baseball.
In 2021, the MLB created new standards for facilities that all baseball clubs across America have to follow. Dell Diamond meets a majority of these standards, but fell short in a few elements. Most notably, the stadium does not have big enough clubhouses for its visiting teams.
“They’re just way too small,” Tim Jackson, the general manager for the Express, explained. He said the team has been making improvements to its stadium the past couple of years, but now the big project is building a whole new clubhouse.
Not enough space
The MLB now requires that all clubhouses be at least 1,000 square feet. The current clubhouse is 901 square feet at Dell Diamond and is also lacking an office for opposing managers, another requirement put in place by the MLB.
This comes as the game itself changes. Jackson explained that teams are getting bigger with more coaches on staff traveling with teams.
“Roster sizes have changed a lot. There’s a lot more coaches than there used to be, and so we’ve really just run out of space,” Jackson said.
The team found it was going to be much harder trying to renovate and expand its current clubhouse setup. Right now, the opposing and home clubhouses are right next to each other behind the left-field seats. It’s about a ten-foot walk between the two entrances.
On any given game day, the two teams share a weight room and a batting tunnel. Even the weight room does not meet the minimum size requirement set by the MLB. There is not enough space to expand.
So the team is looking across the diamond for its solution. The plan is to build a brand new structure behind right field, where a pool is right now. The pool space, which can be reserved by fans during games, will be replaced by the brand new clubhouse. It will be equipped with its very own weight room and batting tunnel, so both teams will no longer have to share.
A deadline to meet
Back when the league decided to make the facility standard changes, it asked each team to perform a self-assessment of its stadium. In 2021 the league sent a third-party company to assess each stadium around the country.
The assessor looked at everything down to the smallest detail. Each team was given a certain amount of points for each standard it did not meet. Dell Diamond received a score of 76, which is not as bad compared to the score of some other stadiums, according to Brian Stillman, the sports facilities and operations manager for the city of Round Rock.
The MLB set a sliding scale for when changes needed to be made. By 2023, the league said each team had to be under 30 points, according to Jackson. He said by the start of the 2024 season, they need to be under 20 points, and by 2025, they need to be under 10 points.
Some of the violations were small. Jackson said they got points for things like having their sprinkler heads too high in the outfield, or having plain white lettering on the signs along the outfield wall. The lettering has to be a certain mixture of white and grey, Jackson was told.
The team was able to make some quick changes and is currently sitting at 22 points. The biggest item now is meeting the space requirement. The city of Round Rock owns the stadium and is working with the team to fund the project.
“Hey, getting some renovations in a World Series champion team here, I think that’s all good,” Kristin Stevens, council member of place 5, said during an agenda review meeting this week.
What happens now?
Round Rock city council will vote on whether to approve the contract for the project during its next meeting on Thursday. The project is estimated to cost $4.3 million and will be paid for by money in the Hotel Occupancy Tax fund.
Construction will start in 2024 and continue throughout the next baseball season. The new clubhouse is expected to open by the start of the 2025 season.
There are also future plans to renovate the existing clubhouse whenever the new structure is built. This will allow the Express to have a bigger clubhouse and spread out. The Express organization will fund that project.