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Willmar's Baker Field to have new dugouts in 2020

Tribune file photo The dugouts at Bill Taunton Stadium, home of the Willmar Stingers, are in need of repair. The Willmar City Council has approved a renovation project, which will be paid for, in part, by the Willmar Baseball Association.1 / 3
Erica Dischino / Tribune The Willmar City Council approved a project to upgrade the dugouts at Baker Field after the completion of the 2019 summer baseball season. 2 / 3
Tribune file photo A dugout project at Baker Field will make the dugouts safer as a dance floor for Barry, the Willmar Stingers mascot who dances on the rooftop to entertain fans during baseball games.3 / 3

WILLMAR — Baker Field at Bill Taunton Stadium in Willmar will have new dugouts in time for the 2020 baseball season.

The Willmar City Council unanimously approved the project earlier this month, as well as reappropriated $42,000 from the Public Works capital improvement budget to fund the construction of the dugouts.

The Willmar Baseball Fastpitch Booster Association is also donating $10,000 toward the project, which is estimated to cost $52,000.

"The dugouts need to be repaired," said Rob Baumgarn, Willmar Recreation Director.

There were two possible options for the dugouts. The cheaper option was to build the dugouts from wood covered in steel, for about $31,000. The city choose the more expensive concrete block option.

"This will provide a solid structure and would provide a longer use of life," Baumgarn said.

The new dugouts will be located where the current ones are, but will be constructed 14 inches into the ground and be approximately 25 feet longer. This will provide better line of sight, allow players to stand up in the back of the dugout and have more space within the dugout for players, coaches and equipment. The dugout project also includes a drainage plan.

The dugout project was first brought to the council at the Dec. 3 work session by Baumgarn and the baseball boosters.

Boosters member Rick Maursetter said the dugouts are original to Baker Field and decades old. They were not replaced when the stadium was built around the field in 2005.

"They are not going to fall down tomorrow. The concern we have is Barry seems to be gaining extra weight. If Barry goes on the roof, he is going through," Maursetter said, talking about the Willmar Stingers' mascot and Barry's habit of climbing on the roofs of the dugouts to dance during games.

The boosters, which have also funded design and engineering work for the project, requested they get exclusive rights to advertise on the dugouts.

"The money we will raise will be used to improve the facilities in Willmar and it does provide some scholarships for kids who can't afford to play baseball," Maursetter said. "The city benefits from the money raised."

At the Dec. 17 meeting when the council OK'd the project, members did raise some concerns about the money being taken from the Public Works budget. That money was originally slated for upgrades to the tennis courts at Sperry and Hilltop parks. Baumgarn said there were serious questions about whether both parks could be done for the $142,000 set aside for the work. Now Public Works will push Hilltop Park to a later year and focus on Sperry with the remaining $100,000.

"Make them top-notch courts, with pickleball lines and everything," Baumgarn said.

Construction of the new dugouts at Baker will begin in August, after the summer baseball season is complete.

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