Raley Field has undergone an offseason upgrade, adding some amenities typical in modern ballparks.
With their home a regular entry on lists of minor-league baseball’s best venues, the River Cats have used the time since the last season ended to make improvements and renovations, including an immense video screen, hundreds of solar panels, a Wiffle Ball attraction, new grass and new paint, and lights for the big Raley Field sign.
“There are definitely more than a couple of changes,” River Cats spokesman Robert Barsanti said.
The two biggest makeovers are the video board and the solar panels. The new video board replaces a smaller board in left field that could not show moving images.
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“When a guy hits a home run, we can now play a cool home run video,” Barsanti said.
The new board is 120 feet long and 8 feet tall, far larger than its predecessor. The board was installed and wired in eight separate panels this week and is expected to be working Wednesday when the River Cats host their major-league parent club, the San Francisco Giants.
The new video board was created by the Rancho Cordova-based D3 LED. D3 has designed many of the digital signs in New York’s Times Square.
The company also designed the main video board in center field for the River Cats about five years ago, a board that will remain in place. The new board is expected to visually “pop,” like a ball off the bat of Buster Posey.
“It will be really impressive,” Barsanti said.
To supply some of the energy for the new board, the River Cats added 472 solar panels atop several buildings, including the stadium. The goal is to generate 25 percent of the electricity used by the stadium in 2016.
In terms of low-tech but equally important improvements, Barsanti said the entire field was replaced after a winter event that featured an ice rink and snowslide inside the stadium called “The Biggest Show on Snow.” Dirt and turf were ripped out and replaced with 100,000 square feet of grass and 400 tons of new dirt and sand.
“That’s been the big ground project for the last month, to get this grass settled in and ready to go,” said Barsanti.
The traditional Kids Corner will still have a bounce house and face painting. A Wiffle Ball miniature field will also be part of the stadium experience in 2016.
The River Cats’ regular season home opener is Friday, April 15.