Cologne Hollanders ready to host night games

Posted on Feb. 6, 2014 by CJ Siewert

Almost a year ago, we took a look at amateur teams across the state that have lights at their home ballpark. To start the 2014 season, we can add at least one more to that list.

The Cologne Hollanders have installed lights at Robert G. Fritz Memorial Field this winter and will be hosting night games for the first time in 2014. 

Jason Kuerschner of the Hollanders offered a wealth of great information on the process of getting lights at the field, as well as a few other interesting nuggets of info. Instead of writing a long story with creative transitions, here is what Jason had to say: 

Process of getting lights

The process for getting lights on the field started in the fall of 2011 when the ball club hosted a meeting for the citizens of Cologne and the neighbors of the park. At that meeting we also brought in a couple of lighting company representatives to help everyone understand the process and issues.

That following spring, the ball club began fundraising in earnest and publicly for the purpose of putting lights on the field. During the following years, the ball club would report to the city council to inform them of the plan and where we were in the process of that plan. We did not ask the city for any funding during these updates, we just continued to state that we wanted to work with the city to improve the park. In fact, if I can go back to the fall of 2009, we did actually go to the city for some funding in the form or $10,000 to replace the outfield chain link fence from 1969 to a wood fence. The city did in fact fund that project. 

The following fall 2010, we reported back to the city council how that all worked out and started the conversation about lights. We stated that as far as we could see the next big improvement that we would need city help on would be a lighting project. 

As of late, we continued to meet/report to the city council at least two times a year with updates on our progress. We had set a target date for beginning the project in the fall of 2014, but after really digging into the numbers with the various lighting companies, it made sense to bring it to the council this past fall for approval before pricing would be increased.

Ballpark history

History of the field is a little sketchy. I believe that we began playing on the current field in the 1940s, possibly earlier than that. However, it wasn’t given the name Robert G. Fritz Memorial Field until 1998 when the retaining wall and backstop and dugouts were all constructed/replaced. 

In fact, the dedication day for the refurbished park was suppose to be in June of 1998. However, the night before that dedication there was a bad storm that came through Cologne. The Grandstand roof and third base dugouts were blown off the foundations and parts of them were found a few blocks away close to downtown Cologne. Those items have since been replaced but Mother Nature ruined dedication.

Not having lights an issue? 

I wouldn’t say it was a big issue. We were able to maintain our town team schedule of games by hosting all our home games on Saturday or Sunday or holidays, however the issue would arise with rain outs and trying to reschedule those we would sometimes lose the home game to a field with lights. 

For playoffs, also we would not get the opportunity to host a game on our field. We would always have to take it to a lighted field. Then with out lights we may never have had an opportunity to have the field available for other teams/organizations like Legion teams, metro teams and so on.

Use of the field

As of the past few years in addition to the Hollanders using the field, we have hosted games for the following teams: Central High School varsity team (2 or 3 games per year), Central ninth grade, all home games. We have hosted MaxBat 14 and under wood bat tournaments for the past three years, the 14U and 15U Metro teams from Waconia, Norwood Legion and just this past fall, Crown College used the field for their fall practices/scrimmages. 

We are in negotiations with Crown College for them to use the field in the Spring of 2014 for their home field for the season. Over the past two years we have averaged more than 50 days of games on the field. In 2010 we hosted the Region 7C amateur tourney, with Norwood (as they had the lights). This past summer we co-hosted with Norwood the Legion District 3 Tier II Tournament.

Cost

The total cost of the project will be $152,000, which includes the lights, poles and electrical. We are splitting these costs 50:50 with the city. The city will pay for the entire project up front and we will be paying the city back in yearly installments beginning January 2015. We have agreed to aggressively pay our portion back to the city in three payments.

Grand opening

As for a plan for a grand opening, that is in the works and I am sure we will look to iron those details out after we have a finalized schedule from the Crow River Valley. There are many ideas that we are working through before we commit to something, but we do want to have recognition during the 2014 season.

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