Council talks ballfield improvements

The New Prague City Council recently began discussions with the New Prague Baseball Association about improvements to the city’s baseball stadium.

Jerry Plambeck of the baseball association gave an information only presentation to the council at its Monday, Nov. 4, meeting. Plambeck told the council that New Prague, Shakopee and Jordan will be hosting the 2018 State Amateur Baseball Tournament. "New Prague will be the first stand alone DRS team to host a state tournament," said Plambeck.

Among the benefits of hosting the state tournament is that it brings in an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 spectators and there is a potential of up to $1 million introduced into the local economy. Plambeck said local motels will likely be booked during the tournament and there will be foot traffic to local establishments.

There are no cost estimates at this time, but there are several improvements to the field and stadium that need to be done. Included is work to the fencing, bullpens, pressbox, playing surface, score board, concession stand/beer garden, lights and deck seating on the first and third baselines. Maintenance work and painting also needs to be done. Some of the improvements are the building of additional fencing or the completing of work on the score board.

Plambeck said much of the improvements are needed in order to host the state tournament. One is the need for more deck seating. They have to add up to 500 more seats, as the tournament needs seating for a minimum of 1,000. Another improvement is the building of a new pressbox. The current one above the home dugout has limited space. The new one is proposed to be built at the back of the grandstand and have room for 10 people. Plambeck noted there will be radio stations broadcasting the tournament.

New Prague is a little different in that there are seven teams in the surrounding area said Plambeck. Also, the stadium gets a lot of use. This year there were 13 teams that used it and nearly every night this season the field was being used. He noted that visiting teams will stop at restaurants and gas stations, and while money does come back to the community it is hard to track.

City Administrator Mike Johnson said the city has grown over the last 10 to 12 years and this would be a good time to begin establishing how the city wants to go forward with taking care of the baseball stadium. He added it was an opportunity of growth for the city.

Mayor Chuck Nickolay said they needed to look at the big picture on how to improve the area around the stadium. He suggested that the New Prague Area School District may be interested in this since their team uses the field. Nickolay said he was in total support of the tournament, but the city has to be part of the process in improving the stadium.

Plambeck is in the process of organizing a group to oversee preparations for hosting the state tournament. So far it includes him and Mike Sticha, who is on the New Prague Park Board and is a member of the St. Patrick baseball team. Council member Shawn Ryan said there are several steps that government has to take, so they needed to get moving pretty quickly.