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—Messenger photo by Britt Kudla The newly installed baseball turf on Diamond 3 at Rogers Park in Fort Dodge, shown here Friday, is ready for use.

Rogers Park’s new artificial baseball turf is aesthetically pleasing and easier to maintain than a natural surface.

However, the decision to move away from traditional grass and dirt wasn’t just about looks or preservation. The City of Fort Dodge, Rogers Sports Complex Development Group and Iowa Central Community College all share a vision: to transform the state’s most beloved softball venue into a premier baseball epicenter as well.

“Ideally, we’d like it to be used every day of the baseball season: early spring through fall,” said Councilman Dave Flattery, who is director of the RSCDG. “In addition to becoming the home of the Iowa Central Tritons and being an upgrade for St. Edmond and the high school teams that will use it, the possibilities are endless: from youth leagues and tournaments to the college (events). We would like to eventually bring the ICCAC (junior college) tournament here. The CYO Tournament. Potentially even state baseball.

“The new turf is the first step. You could get two inches of rain in an hour and still play on it. We share a lot of ideas and big projects. We don’t do this with just the immediate future in mind, and we don’t just make it look good. Our goal is to enhance the reputation and experience of Rogers Sports Complex beyond softball and Mini Majors.

The $1.5 million turf project – managed by Mid-America Golf and Landscape Inc. of Lee’s Summit, Mo. – is complete. There will be a “gentle opening” Saturday morning in front of the Fort Dodge Baseball Association’s “Taco Tico Throwdown” youth tournament.

Flattery will throw the first pitch in a brief ceremony at 9:45 a.m. The general public is invited to attend.

“We wanted to let everyone know we’re off and running, and recognize everyone who has gotten us to this point,” Fort Dodge Director of Parks and Recreation Lori Branderhorst said. “This is an exciting time for baseball in our community. It was a big project in a small window of time, and Mother Nature didn’t always cooperate, but we kept the end result in mind the whole time and it really is an awesome upgrade. Mid-America has done an outstanding job from the start.

The money for the turf project came from a portion of the hotel/motel tax revenue already earmarked for the Rogers Sports Complex. The hotel/motel tax is a 7% levy added to accommodation bills in the city.

A new construction “Green Monster” – 30 feet tall and named after the iconic left field wall at Fenway Park in Boston – is another feature added to Diamond 3. This wall, along with a new scoreboard and padding work around the fences , are entirely funded by private donors .

“Jensen Builders (Ltd. at Fort Dodge) did a terrific job with the engineering and design (of the Green Monster),” Flattery says. “It all started with Mary Stark and her family giving generously to the Rogers Sports Complex when she passed away in 2011. That gift has grown tremendously in appreciation (over the past decade) and really served as a catalyst to get ( exterior wall projects) Go.”

Flattery added that he would eventually like to see the Diamond 3 field named after Mary and Maury Stark.

SportsGraphics, a Clarion branding company, was contacted for signage work.

Iowa Central has called Ed Barbour Field home since 1998. Due to erosion and collapsing side hills around the property, the Triton baseball program will move its full-time games off campus to Rogers Park from spring 2023.

The school has financially committed $300,000 to the Diamond 3 turf project.

“As this phase comes to an end, there are a lot of moving parts and upgrades still coming,” said Branderhorst. “Iowa Central will fund the construction of a new clubhouse (construction will begin this fall). Ideas for improved bleachers and a potential grandstand are underway.

“The idea is to make Diamond 3 and its resources a kind of main mini-park, with teams of all levels across the Midwest using it for games and tournaments. This is another significant investment by the city, private donors and Central Iowa in the future of the complex. »

The St. Edmond baseball team begins practice on Diamond 3 this Monday. The Gaels’ home opener at Rogers Park will be against Humboldt on Wednesday, May 25.

An official signing will take place on Wednesday, June 15, when St. Edmond takes on Iowa Falls-Alden.

“It’s about growing baseball opportunities in our community,” said Branderhorst. “For Iowa Central. For St. Edmond. For local youth teams and organizations. And for the city of Fort Dodge. As is the case with state softball, we are always thinking and moving forward with new projects and improvements in mind. We are delighted to be a part of it.

The flattery echoed Branderhorst’s sentiments.

“It’s an investment in the sport and the people who have a passion for its future here,” Flattery says. “We can’t wait to see it all come to fruition – not just how impressive (the improvements) will be, but the long-term impact it will ultimately have on the reputation of Rogers Park and Fort Dodge.”

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