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Jerry Uht Park is a baseball park located in Erie, Pennsylvania. It is the home of the Erie SeaWolves, the city's Minor League Baseball (MiLB) franchise. The ballpark opened on June 20, 1995 with a SeaWolves win over the Jamestown Jammers, a game in which José Guillén hit the decisive home-run for Erie. Jerry Uht Park features a natural grass playing surface and seats 6,000 people for baseball. In addition to professional baseball, it also hosts numerous local high school and collegiate baseball games throughout the spring. The stadium is part of Erie's Louis J. Tullio Plaza along with Erie Insurance Arena and the Warner Theatre, all of which are administered by the Erie County Convention Center Authority.
Jerry Uht Park replaced Ainsworth Field, which was built in 1947 and renovated in 1980. Located on 24th Street at Washington Place (behind the Roosevelt School), Ainsworth Field was the home of the Erie Sailors for much of the time between 1948 and 1963, and from 1990 to 1994.
Prior to Jerry Uht Park's construction, the Erie SeaWolves (then known as the Welland Pirates) played at Welland Stadium in Welland, Ontario. They moved to Erie after owner Marvin Goldklang moved the Erie Sailors to Wappingers Falls, New York (where they became the Hudson Valley Renegades) because he did not want to upgrade Ainsworth Field to the standards Major League Baseball requires of minor league teams affiliated with its clubs. Once the civic government secured an $8 million grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to build Jerry Uht Park, the Welland Pirates moved to Erie.
The remaining $1 million for architectural expenses were covered by the City of Erie, Erie County, and the 300-member Team Erie, each of whom contributed $300,000. Additionally, nearby Millcreek Township also contributed $25,000. The site now occupied by the ballpark was originally home to a Sears building turned Exhibit Hall. Groundbreaking ceremonies took place on July 27, 1994 and Jerry Uht Park was completed in May 1995.
Jerry Uht Park was recognized by sports broadcast network ESPN for its "delightful bank of nicely elevated seats overlooking the infield along the first-base side" in a 2008 list of U.S. ballparks noted for the best seating. It ranked number five out of the ten venues that were honored.
Longtime Erie resident and local benefactor Gerard T. "Jerry" Uht, Sr. established an endowment in 1995 with the Erie Community Foundation to perpetually support the new downtown baseball stadium. In response to his generosity, the city named Jerry Uht Park in his honor. As of January 2007, the Erie Community Foundation continues to manage the fund, valued at $750,000. The Erie Times-News indicated that the fund is designated for stadium maintenance expenses and equipment purchases.
Seating along the first- and third-base lines has a unique configuration at Jerry Uht Park due to the space constraints of an urban construction. There are three main concession stands and a picnic area for fans, plus six luxury suites for special occasions. The ballpark is known for its two unique grandstands that are not of the same design. The plan called for this quirky design because of urban limitations.
In 2006, Jerry Uht Park was renovated at a cost of $4 million. Additions included a new electronic scoreboard (which has a nautical theme featuring "Erie" spelled out with international maritime signal flags), a two-tiered picnic area called "The Gardens," eleven luxury box seats, and new concession stands. An additional videoboard was added to Erie Insurance Arena, which backs up to the stadium, that displays scores from other Eastern League games, player statistics, and information about the Detroit Tigers. Jerry Uht Park's home-plate area resembles that of Comerica Park in Detroit, which is shaped like a "home plate" pentagon.
In spring 2012, a new wall was constructed along Jerry Uht Park's border with Erie Insurance Arena. The Erie Times-News dubbed it "The Gray Monster," an allusion to Fenway Park's Green Monster in Boston. Its construction was part of the $42 million renovation of Erie Insurance Arena, which lies a mere Convert from the left-field boundary. Additionally, the left-field pole was moved from its original Convert from home-plate to and the batting cages were relocated from left-field to right-center, near the scoreboard.
Jerry Uht Park's concessions are managed by Professional Sports Catering and feature a typical ballpark menu, to include hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, and peanuts. Some more unique items are Philadelphia-style cheesesteaks and barbecue pulled pork nachos. The most distinctive concession is the Smith's Sausage Shack, which grills Cajun sausage, German bratwurst, Italian sausage, and Polish kielbasa along with the Pennsylvania-brewed Yuengling beer. Pepsi has exclusive pouring rights at Jerry Uht Park for soft drinks (locally called "pop").