Watkins prepares for 2015 state tournament

Posted on April 29, 2014 by CJ Siewert

Clippers Park in Watkins is ready to take on some significant improvements leading up to next year’s state tournament.

Lyle Diekmann, sports editor of the Litchfield Independent Review, talked to Watkins Clippers manager Bruce Geislinger about the upcoming upgrades. According to Diekmann’s article, Watkins already has made improvements to the dugouts at Clippers Park. The park is well lit and has a quality playing field, but improvements will be made to the grandstand and concession stand.

Geislinger told Diekmann that $150,000 to $170,000 has been budgeted for ballpark improvements, including a 278-seat covered grandstand and press box.

Here are some more interesting pieces from Diekmann’s article: 

The state tournament is played the final two weekends in August and concludes Labor Day, giving area businesses plenty of time to prepare for the flood of travelers.

“I really don’t have a set number on what the state tournament does (for the economy), but it really helps the region,” said vice president of the Minnesota Baseball Association, Fred Roufs. “Gas stations, bars and restaurants probably see the most benefit, but there are some ancillary benefits.”

Area campgrounds and hotels also will see a spike in occupancy as players and fans try to find lodging for the weekend.

“When Hutchinson and Dassel hosted in 2011, Hutchinson had hotels and Dassel didn’t,” Roufs said. “Litchfield could be one of the towns that picks up some of that business.”

• • •

“When we received the state bid, we knew we had to upgrade our field,” Geislinger said. “After this project is done, we are going to be in the next level of ballparks in the state of Minnesota. I think fans enjoy our park now, but it will be even better. It’s going to be a fun atmosphere for everybody.”

A group of Clippers ballplayers toured area parks in Hutchinson, Bird Island, Arlington, Gaylord – among others – before agreeing on a style they liked.

“The one that really stuck out, the one everybody liked, was Brownton,” Geislinger said. “That ballpark looks a lot like what we are doing. It’s going to be real close to the playing surface, so there’s not much room behind home plate.”

While project is still in its infancy, Mike Lease – president of the Clippers baseball club – has a computer-aided design of the grandstand.

“We’re going to build the best we can with the funds we have,” Lease said. “I think once we’re done, we’re going to have a premiere park – one of those destination parks. I think we’re going to end up with one of the nicest parks in the state.”

Upgrades to the concession stand, which is on the third-base side of the park, and a new observation deck down the first-base line are also in the preliminary plans.

The “party deck” will be 70 feet long, 20 feet wide and six feet above the field’s playing surface.

“It’s just one big patio,” Geislinger said. “We’ll have some high tables and a little concession stand up there to sell some beverages.”

Geislinger said construction of the party deck will begin this spring, while the grandstand construction should get under way after the amateur baseball season.

If there is some money left in the budget, the park will replace its scoreboard.

“I think we should be able to get it all done, no problem,” Geislinger said. “My hope is to have it ready before the 2014 season. I want to have it done when we host regions (in 2014).”

• • •

Watkins and Cold Spring will both benefit financially from hosting the state tournament.

Host sites are allowed to keep all revenue generated from concession sales and novelty items, including programs, hats and t-shirts.

Based on figures provided by recent state tournament hosts, Geislinger expects to make $70,000 on concessions alone.

Lease said the team will continue to raise funds through pull tabs sales, stadium seat sales, meat raffles and golf tournaments to offset the construction costs.

“We’ll do anything we can for funds,” Lease said. “We still might have to go to the bank and borrow, but it depends what the city does. Hopefully the city realizes this is a city park. It’s going to be around forever. It’s going to be a legacy for the town.”

Ballpark improvements will provide Watkins with short-term and long-term benefits.

In addition to hosting future state amateur tournaments, Watkins could be a potential site for American Legion and VFW state baseball tournaments.

“Hopefully some high schools get on board and push to have some playoff games up there as well,” Geislinger said.

Geislinger and Lease know they will need plenty of volunteers to construct the ballpark projects, but they will need even more to work during the state tournament.

Roufs said it can take up to 300 workers each weekend to make the state tournament run smoothly.

“We know that Watkins will work hard to make a good first impression,” Roufs said. “Watkins and Cold Spring are in the state tournament almost every year, so they know what to expect when they get to state. They know how they like to be treated when they get to state.

“I’m not worried about Watkins,” Roufs added. “I don’t know if they have that many Geislingers in Watkins, but I bet most of them will be out there.”

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