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River Falls guarantees Baseball Council loan

This conceptual drawing of the future First National Bank of River Falls Field shows the different sponsorships already pledged by local business, as well as the remaining sponsorship opportunities. <i>Graphic courtesy of the River Falls Baseball Council</i>

The City Council announced at the end of its Feb. 26 meeting and the closed session that followed: River Falls will agree to guarantee a bank loan not to exceed $300,000 for the River Falls Baseball Council.

A group of baseball players, coaches and fans began more than two years ago to rally support for building a baseball field. It partnered with the city to lease land in the eastern portion of Hoffman Park and since then has raised money to build the park. RFBC President Josh Eidem said late last week the city loan represents a "big boost" to the plans, but the group still needs to raise $150,000 to meet the goal amount of $800,000 to begin construction.

"The City Council sees the value of this ballpark as an addition to our community," he said. "We are pleased to have a partner who shares our vision of community togetherness and affordable family entertainment to help us get this project to completion." Eidem says the loan support raises the cash available for construction to nearly $650,000. The RFBC has received nearly $500,000 in total donations for the ballpark, but some of the money is designated to support operations over time.

"Therefore," he said, "the RFBC still must raise another $150,000 in cash over the next year to complete the nearly $800,000 construction plan."

He calls the loan a "great milestone" but emphasizes there is still a lot of work to do to make sure everything is ready for the field's projected June 2014 opening date.

With surveying work complete, Eidem said the goal is for crews to begin grading and earthwork May 1 this year.

Including the value of the raw land at $350,000 and construction costs puts the total budget at $1.15 million, less than the $1.6 million a feasibility study projected it would cost.

Eidem agrees the price tag sounds big but says RFBC has sought every possible opportunity to save money and keep costs reasonable while not sacrificing quality and sustainability.

He said, "We're not building the Taj Mahal by any means, but we're building what's right for River Falls."

The RFBC president says the group will pay off the $300,000 loan through concession-sales proceeds and outfield-fence advertising signs that measure 12 feet by eight feet and cost $500 per year.

So far, the baseball council has sold 41 of the 60 outfield signs that ask for a three-year commitment.

Eidem said there are still plenty of opportunities to support the ball field, including several kinds of sponsorships: Four light poles, home and visitors' dugout, the press box, the donor's plaza and two picnic sections on the upper-level grandstand.

People can also buy four-inch by eight-inch paver bricks or a seat nameplate for $200 each, or one of each for a combo price of $300.

Eidem adds that the group will also be organizing work days for which they'll need skilled volunteer labor -- another effort that should save money and maintain progress. People can sign up for notification e-mails at the RFBC's website.

Also listed there are more than 40 local businesses that have joined the support effort. Interested advertisers and donors are encouraged to contact Eidem at 651-335-0030 or; to stop by First National Bank; or to visit the RFBC at its website:

Said Eidem: "With more happening with the project every day, and especially with such a major funding piece secured, we should have more progress updates to come this spring."