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The new community ballpark -- First National Bank of River Falls Field at Hoffman Park -- is beginning to take shape with the concrete dugouts and riser for the covered grandstand behind home plate clearly visible. Home plate and the pitcher's mound have also been installed as volunteers worked on grading the infield last Saturday morning. More ballpark volunteer days are scheduled in the coming weeks. (River Falls Journal photos by Bob Burrows)

Ballpark taking shape with help of volunteers

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Stop by Hoffman Park on any given day and one thing is clear: It takes a community to build a ballpark.

That fact was evident last Saturday, when 30-40 volunteers spent the day grading the infield, installing chain link fencing and working on dugouts at what will be known as First National Bank of River Falls Field.

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"The volunteer spirit has been just outstanding so far," said Josh Eidem, River Falls Baseball Council president. "We've been out there doing some really hard work and on a few hot days, too. I can't say enough good things about the folks who have come out to help us."

The RFBC has been the driving force behind the privately-funded ballpark. Formed in 2011 to officially bring together all the baseball organizations in River Falls who had been informally collaborating over the past decade, the RFBC signed a lease agreement with the city in March, 2012, to develop and maintain the ballpark on a 7.7 acre parcel of land located between Hanson Road and the Hwy. 35/65 bypass.

The $800,000 ballpark is being funded almost wholly by private citizens, baseball fans and the local business community. Major donors include First National Bank of River Falls, which is contributing $100,000 for naming rights, Family Fresh Market, $50,000 for the outfield scoreboard, General Beer Northwest ($50,000) and DeVine Liquors ($20,000). More than 40 other local businesses have also made financial contributions towards the project.

Eidem said the RFBC is still $30,000 - $40,000 from reaching its goal, but said the group has also managed to cut costs with the help of volunteer work.

"While it's no doubt an expensive project, this volunteer labor is why we're going to be able to build a park for the cost we are," he said. "We're counting on the help."

Upcoming volunteer days at the ballpark include this Saturday, Sept. 14, for installation of 600-feet of outfield signage and final work on the field to prepare for sodding.

Saturday, Sept. 28, the group plans to sod the entire field, install the fence cap in the outfield and erect the foul poles. Future opportunities also include work on the concession building, press box, dugout benches, batting cages, playground, grandstand and dugout railings.

Eidem urged anyone willing to help to come out and volunteer.

"Anyone who wants to be a part of this, come on out and we'll put you to work," he said. "We've got people to handle the technical parts, so if you can operate a shovel or a screw gun, we can use you."

Fundraising for the project continues with sponsorship opportunities available on light poles, the home dugout, a grandstand seating section, picnic deck and donor's plaza. Seven outfield advertising spots are also open and personally engraved 4-by-8 inch paver bricks for the ballpark's Donor's Plaza, as well as engraved seat nameplates in the grandstand, are available for $200 each or $300 for both. Forms can be found at First National Bank or on the RFBC website.

Opening day is scheduled for June, 2014.

For more information about the project, including a virtual tour of the ballpark, visit the RFBC website at www.riverfallsbaseball.org.

See the complete article in the Sept. 12 edition of the Journal.

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Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
(715) 426-1047
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