Sounds like a Steinbeck or Hemingway line, but really we’re just referring to the upcoming makeover of the playing surface of First National Bank of River Falls Field, set to start with excavation on August 5.
The most common question we get this summer from visitors is – “You mean they are going to tear up this? This is the nicest yard and grass around! Why would we they do that?” Understandable question, and I’m a purist too. Let me give forward a little background and list the reasons.
First, let me start here: A huge thank you to Mr. Gary Meyer, who has been the volunteer from the baseball council spearheading this turf since 2013. It looks immaculate, and that’s in large part thanks to Gary, along with his contingent of volunteer mowers who take care of it during the summer.
Second – we’re purists too. The amount of money and man-hours it takes to maintain turf like this – from the water bill to the fertilizer bill, mowing every other day – it’s a lot. If you’re Target Field…dudes get paid for that. If you’re CHS where the Saints play…dudes get paid for that. If you’re a city-operated ballpark…dudes get paid for that. So, if it wasn’t a tremendous effort to maintain the field by cash-strapped volunteers…maybe a different discussion.
Now some background: when we originally conceived of this park, it was meant to be turf. You can still find it on some of our original marketing materials when we first were knocking on doors around RF in 2011. We were not able to raise enough capital then, but when this MLB Grant opportunity fell in our lap – game on! Let me count some reasons…
1. Access. With a natural field, you can only play some many games during the day without beat it up – the mound, the plate, etc. You’ve also got to have a groundskeeper there to help outside users (youth baseball, for example) putting more stress on volunteers. Turnover time between games is ½ hour to 40 minutes for prep – with turf it will be however long it takes to clear the dugouts. We should be able to get much more access for our community than before.
2. Weather. Spring seasons are hard to get in for high school teams, not only in River Falls, but in the area. Our field will allow our teams to get more games in and sooner in the season, it should serve as a resource for all of Western Wisconsin. Also, have you ever sat through a Fish rain delay, had the rain stop, and then have to wait a whole 30 minutes more for us to fix the puddles? We’ll be done with that – rain stops, we go back to playing. That will be great…as well as no more of those “Is the field too wet for a game?” discussions. So again…more access.
3. Today’s turf is not the Metrodome. With today’s turf, it’s much more like playing on natural grass. In fact, anecdotally from Minnetonka Millers head coach, Kevin Hoy, (they have had turf from a long time there), “You’ll love it – guys get hurt less, uniforms stay cleaner, field maintenance is so much easier…it’s a no brainer. If you can get past the purist part of you, and I get it, it’s going to be great for your community.”
Will I shed a tear when the grass and dirt goes in a few weeks? You bet. I was here the day we laid that grass, I’ve even got to mow the field once, and helping to take care of the field has been a labor of love. But I know what’s coming in its place will be great for River Falls, and especially great for kids in and around River Falls, like the 90 of them who came out to our youth clinic last week – it will be a more sustainable ballpark that almost guarantees the next generation of Fighting Fish will have just as much fun as the current one.
Until next time, Go Fish!