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Zach Bailey

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Community expresses concern over Winona State’s newest baseball field proposal

Winona State University representatives and community members discuss Winona State’s new baseball field proposal at a community meeting Oct. 14. (Photo by Zach Bailey)

Winona State University representatives and community members discuss Winona State’s new baseball field proposal at a community meeting Oct. 14. (Photo by Zach Bailey)

 

Zach Bailey/Winonan

Employees of both Winona State University and Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical, along with members of the McNally Drive and Crocus Circle area, met to discuss the possibility of Winona State constructing a baseball field on Southeast Technical’s land.

No plans have been set in stone to begin construction in this designated area, but Winona State has put in a request with Southeast Technical to build a new field that correlates with NCAA sizing standards on land leased to Winona State.

The community meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 13, was a way to involve the community, specifically community members closest to the future construction on McNally Drive and Crocus Circle area, regarding construction options for a smoother transition. A correctly sized field would allow Winona State to maintain NCAA standards.

The current plan for the new field would be very similar to what Winona State has now. A chain link fence would surround the property, giving people a view through the field. There would also be bathrooms and concessions, and the ground at the site, which is 10 to 12 feet below the level of the parking lot next to the empty field, would not be filled in.

Winona State, which has had plans to build a new baseball field for over a year, had looked at other multiple locations including Gabrych Park, one of the empty lots near Menards, and most infamously in the community, next to the softball field in Lake Park.

The softball field at Lake Park is the only stadium in Winona that correctly NCAA sized. Along with this reasoning, another thought was that Winona State will have to upgrade the baseball field eventually.

All of these locations, though, had some drawback that was too large to undergo construction. Whether the space was not big enough, the cost was too high, or the city did not agree with the spot, something always came in the way for Winona State.

The largest concern of all the neighbors was what the construction will do to the resale value of the homes near the field? Though to some, living next to a baseball field would be a dream come true, some despise even the thought of being near the sport.

One neighbor, who is relatively new to the townhouse community, said, “I would not have bought the townhouse I have now if I knew that the rest of my retirement would be filled with the sound of games everyday.”

As for the concern of resale value, Winona State University President Olson admitted they do not currently know what would happen to the property values.

“Generally speaking, something like this could even increase property values,” Olson said.

Community members were also concerned because the field would be placed is in the middle of a flood plain.

The university said due to the fact that the proposed field would be made of turf, in order to build a turf field, it is required to have a drainage system underneath to direct where the water goes during rainfalls. Through the use of the drainage systems the water would flow from the baseball field, away from the residential area and into a pond on the opposite end.

Another concern among community members by Southeast Technical was the possibility of damage to their houses from foul balls and home runs.

Olson, also head speaker on the project, quickly assured this would not happen since there are no exact plans are drawn up as of yet, they do not know which way the field would be oriented and therefore making it unknown whether this would be much of a worrying matter or not.

The current plan for Winona State would be to put a specific type of netting around the zones, most likely to have foul balls hit to them.

A similar netting is at the current baseball field, since its practically invisible and loose yet tight enough to keep baseballs out, it would not be too noticeable, Olson said. If something were to happen and the netting would not catch a ball, the university might pay for the damage, depending on what exactly happened.

The next biggest concern among neighbors was the lights and noise of the field. As for the lights, there is a new type of lighting that uses LED bulbs, and being a directional source of light, the light throws straight down and can be mostly controlled to not go past the field, according to head baseball coach Kyle Poock.

He also said late night games are unusual, and the lights are only precautionary.

“Last year, almost all of our games were finished by 6 p.m., and in the past three years, we’ve only had to use our lights for one game.”

As for the noise, though there are speaker systems at baseball fields, Winona State said it does not announce play-by-plays, and the volume is turned down so only the crowd can hear.

“My center fielder doesn’t have to hear who’s up to bat,” Coach Poock said.

According to Olson, during the final football home game a company will coming in to test a new sound system that will get sound to a certain point but not past a certain level.

Construction of the new field would also come with acoustic testing. This would be done to see how far the noise would travel and giving neighbors an idea of how loud things would be would have a large part in the final decision.

One of the other concerns the neighborhood voiced was the possibly problematic parking situation. With a new field being built, and limited parking as is, neighbors worried parking for games and practices would overflow into the surrounding McNally Drive and Crocus Circle streets and driveways.

“Parking is a very legitimate concern,” Olson said. “We could definitely sign the area, and we could definitely have a flag person directing parking on game days. We do not want people parking there.”

Most games are on weekends and parking in the Southeast Technical’s lot would also be permitted.

The view from the current houses was one of the other concerns presented at the meeting.

“I’ve lived in my townhouse for many, many years,” said one of the McNally Drive townhouse owners. “All these years I’ve been able to look at a beautiful, open green space, now all I’ll be able to see is a baseball field.”

Beth Halleck, one of the family owners of Mugby Junction, and a resident of Crocus Circle who attended the meeting had a positive outlook on the idea of Winona State building a field by her house.

“This land doesn’t belong to our neighborhood, Southeast Technical owns it. Just think, it could be something much worse than a baseball field that is being put up,” Halleck said.