River Falls ballpark organizers get down to businessArea News
-- The effort to build a community ballpark on 7.7 acres of land on the east side of Hoffman Park received a shot in the arm last week with the announcement that General Beer Northwest has committed $50,000 towards the project.
By: Bob Burrows , Pierce County Herald
The effort to build a community ballpark on 7.7 acres of land on the east side of Hoffman Park received a shot in the arm last week with the announcement that General Beer Northwest has committed $50,000 towards the project.
Josh Eidem, River Falls Baseball Council president, said General Beer Northwest’s commitment will help construct a three-part building along the ballpark’s third base line that would include a Leinie Lodge pavilion with bathrooms, the concession stand and a maintenance and storage area.
General Beer Northwest is a local distributor of Miller and Leinenkugel products.
The contribution brings the total amount raised for the project to $107,000.
Previously, the RFBC received commitments of $20,000 from Viking Coca Cola for a yet to be determined sponsorship opportunity, $5,000 from WESTconsin Credit Union and $5,000 from Mahle Engineering of Detroit, Mich.
In addition to the $80,000 in corporate sponsorship, the RFBC also raised $5,000 at its River Falls Baseball Bash in February, and has received $22,000 in commitments from the sale of paver bricks for the park’s Donor’s Plaza and grandstand seat nameplates.
The River Falls Baseball Council (RFBC) was formed in 2011 to officially bring together all the baseball organizations in River Falls who have been informally collaborating over the past decade, including the high school varsity and American Legion baseball programs, the River Falls Fighting Fish amateur team, and the River Falls Youth Baseball Organization.
In March, the RFBC and the city signed an agreement to lease 7.7 acres at Hoffman Park next to the Hwy. 65/35 bypass to develop and maintain a competition-quality baseball park. The lighted ballpark would host an estimated 70-80 games each summer and feature a covered grandstand with stadium-style seating, which would allow the venue to accommodate other local events, such as concerts or civic ceremonies.
Eidem said the contribution from General Beer Northwest for a Leinie Lodge not only helps lower costs, but provides for a cleaner site plan for the facility.
“Rather than having scattered out-buildings around the ballpark, all which would require their own maintenance, we were able to both lower costs and have a classy design,” he said. “With all parts of this project, we've focused on building a facility for the River Falls community to truly be proud of.”
Eidem said the RFBC still needs to raise at least another $350,000 to complete construction of the ballpark. He said the group is continuing discussion with other potential corporate sponsors and actively promoting the sale of paver bricks, seat nameplates and outfield sign advertising.
“While there is plenty of work left to do, we have been hitting all targets so far and are still on track to begin construction late this summer or early next fall,” Eidem said.
The RFBC hopes to open the ballpark in July, 2013, with an eye on hosting the Wisconsin Baseball Association State Championship Tournament. The tournament location rotates around the state each year and 2013 is the St. Croix Valley Baseball League’s opportunity to host. The River Falls Fighting Fish, two-time SCVBL champions, won the WBA state title at last year’s tournament in Coon Valley. The next opportunity to host a WBA State Tournament would not be until 2020.
“I can't think of a better way to open up the ballpark and showcase the generosity of the River Falls community than by hosting the state finals in our first year,” Eidem said.
Lights at the ballpark will also allow the American Legion team to play doubleheaders and the Fighting Fish to schedule more home games. Due to scheduling conflicts with only Saturdays and Sundays currently available, the Fish have only 10 home games scheduled at the high school field in 2012.
Original plans for the ballpark included artificial FieldTurf in the infield, but Eidem said that plan has been scrapped in favor of traditional sod and dirt to lower the project’s cost.
‘If we had the money we’d love to put it in,” he said about the FieldTurf. “But we’re going to focus on making sure we get everything right -- from the concession stand to the grandstand -- to better serve the community.”
Survey work and blueprint designs have already been completed by the local firm, Frisbie Architects, and Ogden Engineering has completed work on a grading plan for the site. RFBC board member Brian Pechacek of Pechacek General Contracting in River Falls will serve as the project’s general contractor.
Eidem said the RFBC continues to seek other in-kind donations of labor and material, and said the response from the community has been very supportive.
“We have been ecstatic about the positive vibe and public support for the project, as well as our corporate partners who see the community benefit,” he said. “As we get closer to construction, our job as a council is to turn that positive support into engraved paver bricks, seat sponsorships, and outfield signs.”
As part of the fundraising effort, engraved paver bricks will be installed in the ballpark’s Donor’s Plaza, near the entrance to the park between the grandstand and concession stand, while seat nameplates will be attached to each of the 250-300 stadium-style seats in the covered grandstand. Bricks and seat nameplates are available for $200 each, or $300 for both, and can be purchased in full, or paid off in monthly installments of $50 once the RFBC begins construction.
“It’s important to us that as many community members as possible have an opportunity to put their name somewhere in this ballpark because, after all, it belongs to them, not the RFBC,” Eidem said.
The RFBC is just beginning to sell advertising for the field’s outfield fence. So far the group has received commitments from WestConsin Credit Union, Security Financial Bank, Kwik Trip and Pro Cut Lawn Care. There are 12, 10, and 8 foot options, and all advertising requires a three year commitment.
Eidem credited the entire ballpark committee of the RFBC with working tirelessly to promote the project. The committee includes community members Eidem, Pechacek, Ryan Bishop, Fred Barr, Curt Bruns, Dave Dintemann, Cedric Ellingson, Tim Frey, Brian Giebel, Mark Hallberg, Clint Kempf, Pat O’Malley, Joel Schaffer and Don Richards.
“We've been able to assemble a very talented team of both dreamers and do-ers,” Eidem said. “They have been able to think outside the box and really make things happen, all with a focus on what's best for the River Falls community. I can't say enough about how great it's been to work with this group.”
Eidem stressed the RFBC still needs plenty of public support to complete the project. He said paver brick, seat sponsorship and advertising pledge forms can be found on the group’s website at www.riverfallsbaseball.org , or by contacting him directly at 651-335-0030.
Bob Burrows is sports editor for the River Falls Journal.