Baucus, Tester go to bat for new Cobb Field

Senators fight Republican’s proposal to cut funding for Billings Ballpark

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester played some hardball on Capitol Hill last night and this morning, and came back with a home run for the City of Billings.

The Montana senators successfully fought back a proposal by Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who tried to cut $500,000 in federal funding for Billings' Cobb Field.

Baucus and Tester requested the funding for the Billings ballpark in the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Bill.  The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the money earlier this summer.

Crews began tearing down the old Cobb Field this week, after voters approved a new, $12.5 million replacement stadium last fall.  When finished the 3,500-seat stadium will serve as a venue for the Billings Mustangs baseball team, as well as other sports, concerts and markets.

"This new stadium will spur redevelopment efforts and revitalization of the area," Baucus said during a speech on the Senate floor.  "Over 100,000 people attended events at Cobb Field last year.  For a state with 900,000 people, that's a lot."

Tester added that the $500,000 appropriation would come from a Community Development Fund within the THUD Appropriations Bill, used specifically for economic development projects like Cobb Field.

"This is a pretty darn reasonable request, I feel," Tester said in his floor speech.  "What is the Community Development Fund for, if it's not for good community development projects like this?"

Baucus noted that Billings residents have already stepped up to the plate to pay for the new Cobb Field. He said Montanans have donated over $2 million in private pledges to offset the taxpayers' costs of repaying the $12.5 million in bonds.

Tester added that while campaigning for his Senate seat this time last year, he repeatedly voiced his support appropriations for projects that improve infrastructure and economic development.

"I'm standing here today to vigorously defend why I requested this funding project in the light of day.  And I'm going to bat for it because Cobb Field deserves funding," Tester said.  "There are no secrets here.  There is no waste.  Just a good, worthwhile community project that will only make a very special place in my home state even better."

The Coburn Amendment, No. 3074, which would have stripped the funding for Cobb Field, struck out in the Senate 63 to 32 this morning.  The entire Appropriations Bill subsequently passed the Senate.