Council Bluffs baseball fields could be in for a major league upgrade

Council Bluffs baseball fields could be in for a major league upgrade

Council Bluffs baseball fields could soon attract leagues and tournaments to the city with a new feature: replica Major League baseball stadiums surrounding the playing fields.

At the Nov. 28 city council meeting, council members voted to approve a resolution awarding a $98,500 contract to HGM Associates, Inc. for the design and engineering of a replica Yankee Stadium field at Bahnsen Park.

At such a high cost, the resolution sparked lively conversation earlier in the day during the city council’s study session, where Parks and Recreation Director Vince Martorello assured council members that, no “we’re not recreating Yankee Stadium.”

The idea is to redesign the field at Bahnsen Park to resemble that of Yankee Stadium, with a 75 percent scale facade around the field “to let people know that this is the design of Yankee Stadium,” he said Martorello

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The project would involve concrete and plaza improvements, new lighting and new fencing, which are things the city’s ball fields need anyway.

“The facilities in the parks, and the assets that we have, haven’t been invested (in) more than 20 years in many of them,” Martorello said.

Improving the parks and adding big-league charm can also help bring those leagues and tournaments to the city, Martorello said.

“We are struggling with competition elsewhere trying to increase the attraction of our courses and tournaments,” he said at the study session. “So when I look at it through that lens, I think it’s worth an initial investment to give us a potential direction that we can discuss.”

Once HGM, the Omaha-based architectural firm, comes back with a design and cost estimate, Martorello will bring it back to the city council to determine whether to move forward with construction of the Yankee Stadium frontispiece.

The funds to hire HGM will come from the budget earmarked for the Bahnsen Park project. The city council previously approved a total of $300,000 for the project when it approved the FY 2023 Capital Improvement Program last December.

Bahnsen Park is named after Council Bluffs local and Abraham Lincoln High School alum Stan Bahnsen, who played 14 years in the major leagues. Bahnsen, who played college ball at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was drafted by the New York Yankees in 1965 as a pitcher.

A power pitcher aptly nicknamed “The Bahnsen Burner,” Bahnsen won the 1968 American League Rookie of the Year award after going 17-12 with a 2.05 ERA and 162 strikeouts.

After four seasons with the Yankees, Bahnsen made stops in Chicago, Oakland, Montreal and Anaheim, before finishing his career in Philadelphia.

If the Bahnsen Park Yankee Stadium project is successful, Parks and Recreation already has plans to turn other city parks into miniature Major League fields of dreams.

“The plan (is) to improve that field, then Fenway Park was another one. We’re looking to review our entire system and make upgrades and invest,” Martorello said. “Westwood (Park) is designated for Wrigley Field.”

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