Upgrades to Franklin Rogers Park could soon take place, as Mankato officials are discussing improvements to the home of the Mankato MoonDogs (summer collegiate; Northwoods League).
The plan on the table calls for renovations to take place in two phases. The first, which could begin as early as this fall, would focus on a variety of aspects of Franklin Rogers Park, including the playing field, concessions, and restrooms. More work would take place in the second phase, as a new scoreboard would be installed, while the seating, lighting, entrances, and batting cages would be among the other areas to be overhauled.
A few tasks remain in the planning process. Mankato officials are still weighing their options for a playing surface, which include a natural or synthetic field. Additionally, the city is looking to fund the first round of upgrades through a sales tax extension that must be approved by the Minnesota State Legislature. More from the Mankato Free Press:
The study’s authors recommended the synthetic turf option for the ballpark, which is more expensive upfront but could save money over the long run due to less required maintenance. ISG, the engineering firm behind the study, projects upkeep costs for the synthetic turf to be six to seven times lower than natural grass.
City Manager Pat Hentges said the artificial turf option, which would require little grooming between games, might allow more games and even tournaments to be played at the park.
“This is not going to expand our operational budget, and if anything it’s going to put more innings played in place if in fact we do it right,” he said.
The artificial playing surface would also be better for the players, said Greg Weis, general manager for the MoonDogs. Asked by councilmembers how the park stacks up to conference counterparts, he noted the “The Frank” consistently ranks near the bottom of the league. The often uneven natural surface, he said, is among the common complaints.
If the city chooses the synthetic surface, the first round of renovations will cost an estimated $3.2 million, with the natural surface likely making the cost of the project $2.9 million. The timing of when the first phase begins depends on how quickly the legislature decides on Mankato’s request. The current estimate for the second phase is $3 million.
Franklin Rogers Park originally opened in 1967, and began hosting Northwoods League action in 1999.