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Donations make First National Bank of River Falls Field reality

April 18, 2014

Drawing predicts look of First National Back of River Falls Field while in action, located at Hoffman Park East.
Drawing predicts look of First National Back of River Falls Field while in action, located at Hoffman Park East. (Rendering courtesy of RFBC)

What started as a dream was made possible thanks to support from at least 82 local businesses, countless hours of volunteer labor and the love of baseball.

That dream is the First National Bank of River Falls Field, a million-dollar lighted city stadium-style ballpark located at Hoffman Park East. The whole project was almost entirely funded through the citizens and businesses of River Falls.

“There is not anywhere else that could do a project like this entirely funded through the community,” River Falls Baseball Council (RFBC) President Josh Eidem said. “All the labor was done entirely from volunteers in the community. River Falls is the perfect size town and has people who are financially comfortable to help with a project like this and it is small enough where everyone seems to know each other and are always willing to pitch in and help.”

The community members have been able to donate by buying donor bricks, seat plaques and could even donate a popcorn or nacho machine to have those foods named after the donator on the concession stand menu.

Eidem said the field will be able to give back to the community by keeping people here on the weekends, “People who might not have cared about baseball before will come out to see what their friends and neighbors helped get started from the ground up.”

The field will be used at the start for River Falls Fighting Fish men’s amateur baseball team, River Falls American Legion baseball team and the River Falls High School varsity team. While there is a baseball field at the high school it is not lighted, does not have the accommodations to bring in as many fans as this new field will and does not provide the same opportunities. The Fighting Fish currently have 100-150 people that attend their games but with the new field hope to get that number up closer to 300 at every home game. In the future Eidam said the new field could be a place where events are hosted such as concerts and River Falls Days activities.

As far as what the field will bring to UWRF students, Eidem, a former UWRF student, said it will provide students who stay in the summer something to do on the weekends and that it is providing another connection to the community and the students. The RFBC has already started building relationships with marketing students at UWRF and hope to provide summer internship opportunities to one or two students.

“I was a student at River Falls and I remember never having anything to do on the weekends in the summer,” Eidem said.

Eidem was part of the last ever baseball team that was cut in 2001 and is now a teacher at Cottage Grove Middle School. He said while the University has had its hands full with fundraising for the Falcon Center it still contributed to the ballpark project in different ways.

“The University helped out in a lot of different ways behind the scenes that people do not know about,” Eidem said.

Eidem said UWRF Athletic Director Roger Ternes came out and talked about different things to think about with the project such as how to fundraise and when to break ground. Michael Stifter, executive director of facilities planning and management, helped with an idea on funding the restrooms out by the ballpark that Eidem said has helped save a lot of money in planning the project.

To completely hit the goal and be able to do everything needed for the ballpark the RFBC still needs about $15,000. There will be a final push event at Kilkarney Hills Golf Course Saturday, May 10. After years of hard work this event is a way to help the RFBC finally cross home plate on this project and give the community of River Falls a baseball field that will be here for generations to come.

For more information on the project go to riverfallsbaseball.org.