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Improvements coming soon to Veterans Memorial Stadium
7-figure project will include larger team clubhouses, additional indoor batting cages, new playing field and scoreboard
CEDAR RAPIDS — You’ll be able to see some of the stuff.
The new playing surface will be noticeable. So will the new scoreboard/video board.
But some of the improvements, updates and additions planned for Veterans Memorial Stadium won’t be viewable by the general public. At least on the inside.
An annex constructed just outside the ballpark in the lower parking lot is part of a plan for the Cedar Rapids Kernels to meet standards set by Major League Baseball when they signed a 10-year Player Development License to remain in affiliated minor league ball. A massive restructuring of the minor leagues cost 40-some franchises their MLB affiliations, including Clinton and Burlington.
The Kernels are the high-Class A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. The club is owned by a group of local men and women and run as a non-profit, with any generated revenues funneling back into the club’s operation.
“Everything should be done by opening day next year,” said Kernels General Manager Scott Wilson. “The goal set by MLB, and there will be many, many people who will not meet that goal, is that you get three years to ease into it. But we are expected to be completed by opening day 2023.”
The replacement of the scoreboard will be done by Daktronics, Inc., of South Dakota at a cost of $707,000, according to a March report from the Cedar Rapids City Council. The current scoreboard/video board is nine years old, considered mostly obsolete from a computer microchip standpoint and was partially damaged in the August 2020 derecho.
Additional damage from the derecho led to the 20-year-old stadium getting new LED lights last year. Then there is the field itself.
“Over the years, the slope has changed on it,” Wilson said. “There is slope on the warning track that shouldn’t be there, there is a little bit of slope on the diamond itself, which actually helps the tarp drain. But you want the field to be as flat as humanly possible. Then the pitching mound will be a little easier to get regulation on from an angle standpoint.”
Other MLB requirements will be met by the annex and a readjusting of current clubhouse and locker room space. There will be a larger clubhouse for the visiting team, separate locker rooms for potential female minor-league staff, a commissary and larger training room for the visiting team.
“Expanding the visiting training room, so it equals the home training room. I am a huge proponent of that since our boys are on the road 50 percent of the time and half the time walk off the field to a bag of ice,” Wilson said. “That’s pretty much been the norm, and that’s not acceptable for guys who are trying to develop in a professional sport. So we want that training room to match, so they can get into a hot tub or an ice bath and all that kind of stuff.”
The annex will house two hitting tunnels, a weight room and video coaching room, all for joint use. There also will be a family room for family members of players, managers and coaches.
The price tag for all of this is an estimated $3,340,000.
“It’s a hefty price tag,” Wilson said. “But, luckily, we have a great relationship with the city, and we’re going to be able to fund that. Part of that is our annual maintenance budget and things like that. We’re kind of using some of that.”
Wilson said construction of the annex building will begin next month. Other renovations will begin after the final home game of this season.
“It’s a couple-million dollars of investment by the city to get up to MLB standards,” he said. “It was reviewed by the Twins, it was reviewed and approved by MLB. We did all that last summer. We’ve been ahead of the game on this from the beginning. It’s important to stay within the good graces of MLB and keep baseball around here for years and years to come.”
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