Repairs begin for La Yegüita’s stable
By Marcos Mejías Ortiz
Special to The Star
After more than three years since the onslaught of Hurricane Maria, the legendary Yldefonso Solá Morales Stadium in Caguas is on its way to its long-awaited reconstruction.
At a cost of $5 million, the Municipality of Caguas announced the repairs to the home of the Caguas Criollos of the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (LBPRC), with the goal that the team will return to its home field for the 2021-22 season, after four years playing outside the city.
“Yegüita’s stable is coming to life. We are returning to our stadium. We are working to make our stadium shine once again,” said Caguas Mayor William Miranda Torres at a press conference held in the stadium’s right field stands. “It is an indescribable feeling, after the destruction of hurricanes Irma and Maria, now there is progress in the arrival of funds to repair our facilities.”
Of the $5 million, about $3.9 million will come from insurance funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The rest of the money will come out of municipal funds.
“We are creating savings that are going to be used for that,” Miranda Torres said.
In an aside with The San Juan Daily Star, the mayor said FEMA evaluated 822 facilities in the municipality that were damaged by Maria in September 2017. Of that total, 100 will receive repair funds totaling $35 million, from which the nearly $4 million are going to be used for the repairs at Solá Morales.
Among those repairs at the stadium that opened on Nov. 7, 1948 are the restoration of the playing field (natural grass, sprinkler system, warning track), ceiling improvements, exterior painting, repair of the electronic scoreboard and the electrical system, construction of two terraces (one on the right field side and the other on the left field side), among others.
“Thanks to the mayor, who has always supported us, we are happy to return to our park after four seasons,” said Raúl Rodríguez, president of the Criollos.
For the upcoming season, scheduled to start in December, the team will play at the Pedro Montañez Stadium in Cayey, after playing in Gurabo (two years starting in 2017) and San Juan (last year).
At the event, which was attended by several former Criollos players, it was observed that the painting tasks outside the facility have already begun. It is expected that the project will be completed by September 2021 and that the Criollos can play at Solá Morales from the start of the season in November 2021. Caguas has not played in its stadium since January 2017, when they won the LBPRC championship against the Santurce Cangrejeros.
“We are [on target] for September ,” Miranda Torres said. “The terraces are in the design stage and we are trying to ensure that everything is running from the beginning of 2021.”
With the construction of both terraces, the stadium’s public seating capacity will be reduced from 10,000 to about 7,000 seats.
The Criollos also announced that they will dedicate the 2020-21 season to former pitchers Desiderio de León, who pitched for the Criollos in the 1950s, and the recently retired Orlando Román, who played his entire career with the Criollos.
The 2020-21 Winter League season is scheduled to begin on Dec. 1.