The city of La Crosse plans to spend $350,000 to build a field for softball and youth baseball on Isle La Plume as part of a project to pave the way for large tournaments to come to the city.
Those plans took a step forward Monday when the Board of Public Works agreed not to renew a lease with Badger Corrugating and City Brewery for the land directly north of Carroll Fields. The lease was up Dec. 31, 2017, and the two businesses would have until June 1 to vacate the lot, which is primarily used for parking.
The next steps are to designate the area park land and begin design work, according to recreation specialist Jared Flick. The city would start construction in late summer.
“The plan is to have it playable by next year,” Flick said.
Last year, the city added a second field to the island and set aside funds in its capital improvement budget for the project after the city’s Parks and Recreation Department identified the need for additional fields for softball and baseball in the area.
“We have the demand right now for adult softball and the youth baseball programs,” Flick said.
Not only does the parks department serve its own leagues, but organizations such as the Amateur Softball Association are looking for a central location to hold large tournaments. With La Crosse located near to Minnesota and even Canada, organizations are looking at the city for options.
“We’ve toured some groups that are interested. We just have to have a central location,” Flick said.
Event organizers aren’t interested in satellite tournaments in which games are played at fields throughout the city; they want a single complex.
“We’ve fallen behind other communities that have large complexes. We just don’t have anything,” Flick said.
The plans call for fields that would be adaptable, with space for youth football or soccer, in addition to baseball or softball.
“Our plans would be to light both fields. Depending on where the bids are, that might be pushed back one year,” Flick said.
If all goes according to plan, the city will look into increasing restroom capacity and a larger concession stand next year.
The placement was approved despite concerns raised by the city’s street department about its impact on snow removal. Street superintendent Mike LaFleur said the area between Carroll Field and the lot is used for snow storage throughout the winter as the city removes snow from downtown.
“We’re running out of room; the island is getting small,” LaFleur said.
However, the city staffers will work together to find another option, possibly the parking lot intended to go along with the fields.
Council member Gary Padesky voted in favor of the project, saying the field could draw tourism dollars.