Fans don banana costumes at Grayson Stadium on opening day of the 2023 season. Photo courtesy of Bananas' fan Ashley Rudder.
Fans don banana costumes at Grayson Stadium on opening day of the 2023 season. Photo courtesy of Bananas' fan Ashley Rudder.

PROPERTY MATTERS: Savannah Bananas, city upgrading Grayson Stadium, adding seating

While obtaining tickets will still be a luck of the draw, more fans should be able catch a Savannah Bananas’ game this coming season at a renovated Historic Grayson Stadium.

The team’s owner, Fans First Entertainment, is investing in additional seating behind both sides of the outfield for the 2024 season, which President Jared Orton said will increase the stadium’s capacity by about 1,000 people for a total of 5,000.

The new seating is among a number of upgrades designed to help rejuvenate the 83-year-old stadium that Orton said was due some “tender, love and care.”

“We’re trying to give people a 21st century experience, with more seating, in a 1941 ballpark,” he said.

The city is also using voter-approved sales-tax funding (SPLOST) to restore the stadium’s original grandstand. Last June , the city council approved a $131,624 contract to replace 620 dilapidated seats. Then in August, the council approved $294,050 in renovations to repair leaks in the locker rooms and beneath the grandstands, spalling of the steel beams, and repairs of wooden bench seating. A new sound system was also installed last year, the dugouts were revamped and a new batting cage is also on the way.

After bringing their game of Banana Ball to 33 cities and half a million fans in 2023, the team is expected to play for about one million fans across the country this year, including at six major league stadiums, according to a thank you message posted by owners Emily and Jesse Cole.

Orton said the seating is an exciting addition and a common request from local fans. Getting tickets will still be a challenge, however, and they may also add more games, Orton said.

“We’re going to continue to work with the city to figure out what else is possible,” he said. “Obviously, we don’t want to overwhelm the park or neighborhood.”

To accommodate the larger crows, Orton said gameday employees will park offsite, rideshare apps have been updated with improved pick-up locations and more traffic control officers have been hired.

The upgrades come after the team acquired a former furniture store on Bee Road, across from the stadium, which was subsequently renovated and now serves as the home base for administrative staff. An additional eight employees are beginning this week, bringing the total number of front-office staff to about 60, Orton said. Another six to eight coaches will be employed by the organization and the number of players will increase from about 40 to 60 with the introduction of the latest Bananas’ competitor, the Firefighters, in the summer.

After first signing on to play at Grayson in late 2015, the owner’s current lease with the city expires on September 30, 2025, but the team has the option to extend the agreement for another five years.

Orton said that they have no plans to go anywhere.

“We’re fired up about this place,” he said. “We see the long-term vision of it.”

Located at 1401 E. Victory Drive in Daffin Park, Grayson Stadium was originally built in 1926 before being destroyed by a hurricane in 1940 and then being reconstructed in 1941. The stadium has hosted baseball legends such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb, and Jackie Robinson.

Eric Curl

When not wandering the streets with his canine companion, Eric Curl is probably reading building permits and meeting agendas. He writes Property Matters on to share what he finds. You can find the column, along with other stories, cartoons and quizzes about local matters at Savannahagenda.com.
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