Officials in Eau Claire, WI are considering a $3.5 million renovation project to Carson Park baseball stadium, home of the Eau Claire Express (summer collegiate; Northwoods League).
Renovating a historic ballpark can sometimes be a daunting task, and Carson Park certainly offers a fascinating history of its own. First opening as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project in 1937, Carson Park has been well maintained over the years and was even added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.
The city feels that the upgrades will allow the ballpark to keep its historic charm, and be more conducive to modern standards. Among the proposed upgrades are the replacement of aluminum bleachers—which are not original to the ballpark, but were first installed in the 1960’s—with a permanent structure. This change would also allow the ballpark to better meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, and install modern bathrooms.
Another, and potentially controversial, overhaul could come to the field, where the natural grass field would be replaced by an artificial service. City officials feel that the artificial turf will also allow the ballpark to be more versatile, and easier to maintain. More from WEAU 13 News:
“We could start playing here in March, we could snow blow the snow off the field and start playing the first time we have a nice sunny, 55 degree day,” said [parks and forestry director Phil] Fieber.
However, Joe Eisenhuth the athletic director at North High School says losing the natural grass to the turf will be hard.
“While the current field and grandstand facilities have been much appreciated over the years, the proposed renovation to the Carson Park Baseball Stadium would certainly provide great opportunities for the players, coaches, and fans,” Eisenhuth said in a statement.
Although, Fieber says the updates will make it a whole new ballgame for fans and players.
“What we’d be able to do is to make it a little more inviting for people to attend games here and enjoy baseball in Eau Claire,” he added.
Under the current funding proposal, the city would pay for half of the renovations, with the remaining funds coming from additional stakeholders, including the Express. It is expected that most of the money raised outside of city government would go towards the new field. The grandstand could be in place by the end of 2017 with the field coming towards the end of the next summer, though the project is still pending the approval of the city council.