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—Messenger photo by Britt Kudla the recently-installed baseball turf on diamond 3 at rogers park in Fort Dodge, shown here on Friday, is ready for use.

The new artificial baseball turf at Rogers Park is aesthetically pleasing and easier to maintain than a natural surface.

The decision to move away from traditional grass and dirt wasn’t just about looks or preservation, though. The city of Fort Dodge, the Rogers Sports Complex Development Group and Iowa Central Community College all share a vision: to turn the state’s most cherished softball venue into a premier baseball epicenter as well.

“Ideally, we’d like to see it being utilized every single day of the baseball season: from the start of the spring into the fall,” said city councilman Dave Flattery, who serves as director of the RSCDG. “In addition to becoming the home of the Iowa Central Tritons and being an upgrade for St. Edmond and the high school teams who will use it, the possibilities are endless: from youth leagues and tournaments all the way through college (events). We’d like to eventually bring the ICCAC (junior college) tournament here. The CYO tournament. Potentially even state baseball.

“The new turf is step one. You could get two inches of rain in an hour and still play on it. We’re sharing a lot of ideas and big plans. We’re not doing this with just the immediate future in mind, and we’re not just making it pleasing to the eye. Our focus is on enhancing the Rogers Sports Complex reputation and experience beyond just softball and the Mini Majors. ”

The $ 1.5 million turf project – handled by Mid-America Golf and Landscape Inc. of Lee’s Summit, Mo. – has been completed. There will be a “Soft opening” on Saturday morning before the Fort Dodge Baseball Association’s “Taco Tico Throwdown” youth tournament.

Flattery will throw out the first pitch during a brief ceremony at 9:45 am The general public is welcome to attend.

“We wanted to let everyone know we’re off and running, and recognize everyone who got us to this point,” Fort Dodge Parks and Recreation director Lori Branderhorst said. “It’s an exciting time for baseball in our community. This was a big project in a small window of time, and Mother Nature didn’t always cooperate, but we’ve kept the end result in mind the entire time and it really is an impressive upgrade. Mid-America has done an outstanding job from the start. ”

The money for the turf project came from a portion of hotel / motel tax revenue already earmarked for Rogers Sports Complex. The hotel / motel tax is a 7-percent levy added to lodging bills in the city.

A newly-constructed “Green Monster” – 30 feet tall and named after the iconic left-field wall at Fenway Park in Boston – is another added feature to Diamond 3. This wall, as well as a new scoreboard and padding work around the fences, is being funded entirely by private donors .

“Jensen Builders (Ltd. in Fort Dodge) has done a terrific job with the engineering and design (of the Green Monster),” Flattery said. “This all started with Mary Stark and her family making a generous contribution towards Rogers Sports Complex when she passed away in 2011. That donation has appreciated significantly (over the last decade) and really served as the catalyst to get (the outfield wall projects) going. ”

Flattery added he would like to eventually see the Diamond 3 field named after Mary and Maury Stark.

SportsGraphics, a branding company out of Clarion, has been contacted for the signage work.

Iowa Central has called Ed Barbour Field its home since 1998. Due to erosion and collapsing of side hills around the property, the Triton baseball program will be moving its games full-time off campus to Rogers Park beginning in the spring of 2023.

The school has financially committed $ 300,000 to the Diamond 3 turf project.

“As this phase comes to a close, there are a lot of moving parts and upgrades still coming down the pike,” Branderhorst said. “Iowa Central is going to fund the building of a new clubhouse (construction will begin this fall). Ideas for upgraded bleachers and a potential grandstand are in the works.

“The idea is to make Diamond 3 and its resources a mini-Principal Park of sorts, with teams of all levels throughout the midwest using it for games and tournaments. This is another significant investment by the city, private donors and Iowa Central in the future of the complex. ”

The St. Edmond baseball squad begins practice on Diamond 3 this Monday. The Gaels’ home opener at Rogers Park will be against Humboldt on Wednesday, May 25.

A formal dedication will be held on Wednesday, June 15, when St. Edmond takes on Iowa Falls-Alden.

“This is all about growing baseball opportunities in our community,” Branderhorst said. “For Iowa Central. For St. Edmond. For local youth teams and organizations. And for the city of Fort Dodge. As is the case with state softball, we’re always thinking and moving forward with new projects and upgrades in mind. We’re excited to be a part of it. ”

Flattery echoed Branderhorst’s sentiments.

“This is an investment in the sport and the people who have a passion for its future here,” Flattery said. “We’re anxious to see everything come to fruition – not just how impressive (the upgrades) will be, but the long-term impact this will have at the end of the day on Rogers Park and Fort Dodge’s reputation.”

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