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Billings Mustangs add $1 fee to tickets to improve Dehler Park

Dehler Park
Posted at 6:05 PM, May 30, 2024

BILLINGS - The Billings Mustangs have added a $1 fee to home game tickets in an effort to fund improvements needed at their home field, Dehler Park.

Some of these improvements include extending the foul ball nets down each side of the field to the foul ball poles and replacing the grass on the field, which hasn't been done in the park's existence.

The money brought in from the additional ticket fee will be put in an existing account designated for the field's maintenance, which is funded each year by the city of Billings and the Mustangs. Dehler Park is owned by the city, but the Mustangs rent it and pay for the day-to-day operations.

"We want to not only own this asset, but we want to make sure we take care of it and continue to upgrade it," said City Administrator Chris Kukulski.

Kukulski said that the City and Mustangs came to the decision to add the additional fee together. The fee increases the price of a general admission ticket from $9 to $10.

For many Mustangs fans, such as Laurie Watts, that decision was met with distaste.

"Now they want to add an extra dollar?" Watts said. "Well, what's it going to be next year or the year after that? I just don't trust the city to spend it responsibly."

Watts said she loves going to the games, and while the fee is only a dollar, it's an upsetting choice that she fears could be used to fund other city projects unrelated to Dehler Park.

"We love supporting the Mustangs," Watt said. "We love coming out to the games. We support everything we can here in Billings as far as sports goes because we don't have much, but that's not what our dollar is for. Families need a break these days, not an additional fee."

Kukulski assured MTN that the money generated by the fee, which he expects to hit $40,000 this season, will stay at Delher Park. He said extending the foul ball nets will end up costing anywhere from $250,000 to $400,000.

Foul Ball Nets

"Unfortunately, it's kind of shocking the costs for projects like that," Kukulski said. "So, we are saving up."

The foul ball nets aren't the most expensive project the city is eyeing. Kukulski said city officials are beginning to discuss replacing the grass at Dehler with turf. He said the project would cost $1.5 million, but it would be the first time the grass has been replaced since the park was built.

"The field at some point will need to be replaced," Kukulski said. "The idea of adding turf would be to greatly expand the amount of time people are using it and also expand the season."

Kukulski said switching to turf would be easier for the grounds crew to maintain. It also would extend the baseball season, and with the MHSA approving high school baseball, that additional use could be beneficial going forward.

2010 Concert Set Up

He also added that a turf field would make it easier to host other events like concerts, which was part of Dehler's original design. However, in its over two decades of operation, only one concert was held back in 2010.

"It would be great to have a concert in this facility," said Watts.

All of the improvements will be done with one main goal in mind: To get the Mustangs affiliated with a Major League Baseball team once again. The team had been affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds for decades.

In 2019, Major League Baseball announced it was cutting costs by eliminating 40 minor league teams, including the Pioneer League, which included the Mustangs. The 2020 season was supposed to be the last for professional baseball in Billings, but COVID forced cancellation of all games.

In 2021, eight teams chose to continue the Pioneer league, competing as an independent minor league.