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Turning the lights up at Baker Field in Willmar

Jake Schultz / Tribune file photo John Trousdale, No. 14 of the Willmar Stingers, rounds the bases during a June 13 game versus Eau Claire, Wis. The Willmar Stingers Northwoods team plays at Baker Field in southwest Willmar, where new LED lights will be installed this fall.

WILLMAR — Baker Field will be much brighter for the 2019 season.

The Willmar City Council unanimously approved a project to upgrade the lights at the ballfield at a cost of $294,615.

Currently the lights at Baker Field provide 24 foot candles of illumination in the infield and only 11 foot candles in the outfield, far less than the 70 foot candles in the infield and 50 in the outfield recommended by the NCAA for college fields. For over 35 games a summer, the Willmar Stingers, made up of college baseball players, call Baker Field and Bill Taunton Stadium home.

Musco Lighting will install the new LED lights this fall, after the baseball season is completed. Two poles will also be replaced as part of the project.

To pay for the project, which was recommended by staff but not funded in this year's capital improvement plan, funds from two other projects will be re-appropriated.

The vast majority of the money, $200,000, will be taken from the proposed Dorothy Olson Aquatic Center pool resurfacing project. This project was supposed to be done this fall but will be moved to spring 2019. Thus, the 2018 budget dollars can be used for the field lights. The remaining $95,000 comes from savings from the new public works fuel tanks, which came in significantly under budget.

The council agreed at the June 18 meeting to approve the project and re-appropriate the funds, but there were some concerns raised.

Councilor Ron Christianson read a letter from constituent Nathan Streed, who wondered why projects at Baker Field, or what he called Stinger Field, seem to be done immediately, while projects at other city ballparks languish.

"There needs to be some equity and investment in our other facilities that our youth actually get to use," Streed's letter said.