Winona City Council members gave Winona State University (WSU) and Winona Parks and Recreation the green light to begin planning and develop a cost estimate for a new baseball field at Bambenek Field in Lake Park to be shared by the city and the university.
The proposed field would sit just east of "Field One," an existing shared softball field. If constructed, the baseball field would eliminate one of the city's existing softball fields at that site and require the Jaycee Pavilion to be moved a short distance away.
There was not yet a cost estimate for the project, but it would likely be more than the $440,000 shared softball facility. That cost was split equally between the university and the city, with the university adding a press box, concession stand, and scoreboard at its own expense. The new baseball field would involve sharing costs as well, but no specific ratio or dollar amounts were discussed.
WSU is interested in building a field that could host NCAA tournaments. After determining that expanding its existing Loughrey Field was not possible, WSU sought to partner with the city for another shared ball field. The Gabrych Park baseball field on Steuben Street was too far from campus, WSU officials said, so they talked to Parks and Recreation about construction at Bambenek Fields.
Losing one of the city's softball fields was a non-starter for council member Gerry Krage, and other council members had concerns about how that would affect city softball leagues.
WSU officials offered to provide lighting for what would be the four remaining softball fields without lightsóField One currently does have lighting. Being able to hold city softball games after dark would make it possible to play all of the games even with one less field, said Parks and Recreation Community Services Director Chad Ubl.
Council members asked about light pollution affecting nearby homes, and Ubl replied that field lights have gotten "better and better" at keeping the light on the field.
WSU officials also mentioned the idea of building a convertible field that could host softball and baseball gamesóbaseball and softball fields have different dimensions. However, they said that would require considerably more funding.
The council was receptive to the idea and approved moving forward with design work. Krage and Mayor Mark Peterson encouraged WSU and Parks and Recreation to look at the convertible field concept.