Council approves construction of two new baseball fields

Plan to build a home for minor league team meets opposition at public hearing
Tuesday, April 17, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:45 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008

Baseball was a hot topic of the Columbia City Council on Monday night.

Rustic Road resident Sue Underwood threw the first pitch when she presented a petition against the development of a minor league baseball stadium for the Mid-Missouri Mavericks at American Legion Park. The petition, presented during the public comment portion of the council meeting, included 46 signatures from residents of Timberhill and Rustic roads, which lie just south of the park and Route WW.

Underwood said the signatures represent 90 percent of the residents of those two roads. She outlined four main reasons for their opposition to the project: potential noise from the traffic and the PA system, the intense lighting that would be required at the stadium, traffic congestion on surrounding roads and chemical pollution from the facility.

“I don’t want to see a kid’s playground, mature trees and a pond bulldozed,” Underwood said.

Underwood was responding to the Mavericks’ proposed construction of a $5 million stadium at American Legion Park. The owners of the Mavericks, Gary and Brad Wendt, won the council’s approval last June to build the stadium by this fall. There has been no progress thus far however, as negotiations between the city, the Mavericks and the American Legion, continue, Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said.

The Mavericks are a minor-league professional team that played for three seasons at MU’s Taylor Stadium as members of the Frontier League. However, after three years of bottom-rung baseball and low attendance, Gary Wendt, the team’s president, announced in October 2005 that the Mavericks would suspend play until the team built a new stadium, preferably in Columbia. Negotiations with the city and the American Legion began about eight months ago. The last proposal on the table was for the Mavericks to pay for construction of the stadium, donate it to the city, then lease the facility and land for $12,000 a year. When finished, the stadium would be used for Mavericks games, city leagues and legion events.

Representatives for the Mavericks could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, anticipating the loss of the two baseball diamonds at American Legion Park — if and when the Mavericks stadium is built — the council approved the construction of two new ball fields on the Atkins property north of the Boone County Fairgrounds. The city and county are co-owners of that land.

Ordinances approved by the council also call for the construction of a parking lot, an entrance road and an irrigation lake to begin by this summer and for the two new fields to be finished in time for the 2008 baseball season.

Phase one of the project will cost an estimated $1.4 million. Half the money will come from the city’s parks sales tax. Another $325,000 originally intended for renovation of the American Legion fields will also be used, and the Boone County Commission will put a $200,000 grant toward the project. Officials hope to get another $200,000 from the county; remaining costs will be covered in the city’s budget for fiscal 2008.

A source for the $726,444 cost of the second and final phase has not yet been identified.

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