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River Falls to get its own ‘Field of Dreams’

March 9, 2012

The River Falls Baseball Council (RFBC) wants to get a lighted baseball field for the city of River Falls.

The current and only baseball field in River Falls is the River Falls High School Field. It is located on a hill behind the school. The field lacks bathroom facilities, shade and parking. It hosts many groups: the high school varsity team, youth baseball teams and the summer leagues. As a result, the RFBC started looking for a more suitable place in which to build a baseball field.

The RFBC and the River Falls City Council conducted a study to appraise potential sites for the field. Afterwards, it was concluded that Hoffman Park, which is located by East Division Street and the River Falls Hospital, was the perfect location.

“There is existing infrastructure, such as parking, bathrooms, camping, playground, etcetera, all in that vicinity. It’s a high profile location close to downtown that can draw community residents to the facility. It’s accessible by kids on bicycles. It already contains lighted fields so adding another lighted field is a lot easier than putting it somewhere where there are no lighted fields and that affects the community,” said Vice President of the RFBC Ryan Bishop.

Before any construction starts on Hoffman Park, the RFBC has to work on an agreement with the River Falls City Council because it is public property.

“They’re [RFBC] a non-profit organization that represents the community for baseball events. And because it [Hoffman Park] is city owned property, that’s public property, we’re required to have an agreement of understanding that we’re not selling the property, they’re basically going to be leasing the property for one dollar a year, for up to 20 years. So we have to write an agreement on what they can do and can’t do on the property,” said River Falls City Planner Buddy Lucero.

Lucero said that the agreement is to make sure that the RFBC is complying with the agreements over the upcoming years. He also said that the city itself would not pay for any of the project. The RFBC has to get donations, sponsorships and has to fundraise in order to build the field.

The RFBC have been working on several community fundraisers. The group has planned several events in order for the community to step in and help. On February 11, it had its annual RF Baseball Bash, where the group raised nearly $7000. The group is also planning its annual “Ugly Pants Open” golf tournament for the fall.

In addition to events, the RFBC is selling engraved bricks for the field’s “Donor’s Plaza” patio. The bricks will be in front of the ballpark’s concession stand.

Another fundraising effort is selling nameplates for the seats in the grandstand. People can buy one to memorialize a loved one or to advertise a local business. In addition, the group will be selling advertising space on the outfield fence to raise revenue.

Another way of paying for the field is leasing it out to other groups. Bishop said that the field for the most part would be for the Legion leagues. However, he says groups are eligible to apply to use the field. This is great news for the UW-River Falls Baseball Club.

UWRF Baseball Club organizer Brian Huybrecht said that when the college built over the campus’ baseball field, it was hard to organize games and get players interested in the club. With the prospect of a community baseball field, he thinks it will help get more students involved.

“I think it would get people excited to play because we don’t have a baseball team here and I don’t think a lot of people think about playing or actually try out because of it,” said Huybrecht.

Huybrecht also said that he thinks the field would enhance the campus community. Moreover, Lucero and Bishop think this field will improve the River Falls community altogether. When the field is finished, the summer leagues could host tournaments and the high school will be able to host sectional games. That will bring teams to River Falls and bring business to downtown.

“It will bring an actual event to the community that wasn’t previously there. It will bring people to our community when they come to our community to watch a game, and it will provide a better tax base because they will go downtown to eat or possibly spend the night at a local hotel,” said Bishop.

With all of these possibilities, Lucero said that he sees the field as a great addition to the community and that it will bring the community closer together.

“It’s almost like that movie Field of Dreams and people really have to believe in it and want it and I believe it really will occur. I think it is a good gathering port for our community. I think it will be—it has been well accepted and I wish it the best and we will support it as much as we can and I hope the general public and community will also support it,” said Lucero.

Bishop said that the RFBC is hoping to start construction this spring after the snow melts and that the field is projected to be open to the public July 2013.

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