Ball park renovations expand at Mt. Simon Park

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)- A popular ball park in Eau Claire is another step closer to amping up its fields.

The Eau Claire Babe Ruth Organization is now expanding its renovations at Mt. Simon Park. Originally, the organization was just looking to renovate the concession stand and add an indoor facility, but the list got a little bit longer, pushing back construction.

“I can remember when this was built,” Jim Sydow said of Lake Wissota, as he watched his grandson play at Mt. Simon Park. “We used to live in the Twin Cities and come down here and play in tournaments.”

More than 350 kids run these bases each year, and it's been roughly 15 years since Mt. Simon Park's baseball fields have seen any changes.

“It’s fun,” said Will Thibodeau, as teammate Aidan Peterson added in, “It’s pretty nice, they keep the field pretty clean.” Both Thibodeau and Peterson play for the ECBR All-Stars. Peterson added, “They need to redo the outside of the building I think a bit, but the concessions are pretty good, you get seeds.”

That concession stand is on the renovation list for the organization. Last year, fundraising began to build a new one, as well as the city's first indoor facility run by a non-profit, to give kids an edge in their game. Tuesday night, those renovation plans were approved by Eau Claire City Council, with a few new items added to the list.

“It’s a big undertaking for a nonprofit to take under, but the real focus should be on renovations at Mt. Simon,” explained Nathan Kilness, the lead president for the organization. “It’s a great facility, it’s been good to us for decades; we just want to give it a little extra life and spruce it up a little bit.”

Permanent grandstands, updated bullpens and work on the outfield fences are a few new items added to the bill. The project, originally expected to cost around $250,000, however that price tag has increased a bit.

“It’s not about building an indoor facility, it’s really about renovating a great ball park in Mt. Simon Park where generations of Eau Claire kids have played baseball,” Kilness said.

The renovations are helping future ball players and giving old ones something new to look back on.

“Playing on an All-Star team together, those were formative years for us,” said Max Sires, a baseball player at UW-Stout and coach for the All-Star team. “It’s a lot of fun to go back there and watch these kids play.”

With a busy season ahead for the organization, they will continue their fundraising, one of the reasons they tentatively pushed their original construction date from this fall, to fall of 2018. As of right now there is no official price tag on the total renovation costs.

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