Prospect Meadows is a brand-new baseball and softball complex with no baseball or softball right now

The infield uses artificial turf at Prospect Meadows in Marion, shown on Monday, May 13, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
The infield uses artificial turf at Prospect Meadows in Marion, shown on Monday, May 13, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Prospect Meadows’ 2020 season started out with a bang. Awesome weather, lot of teams, games and fans.

Then the coronavirus pandemic changed everything.

Sports have come to a complete halt, and that includes at the multi-million dollar baseball and softball complex on the outskirts of Marion that hasn’t even been open a year, yet.

“This is nothing we ever expected, that’s for sure,” said Prospect Meadows President and CEO Jack Roeder. “We’d gotten off to a great start to the 2020 season. That first weekend in March, we ran into a really nice weekend. I think the temperatures were in the 60s on Saturday, and I think we might have even touched 70 on Sunday. We had over 30 teams that weekend and over 3,000 people over those first two days that had come to those games.

“Then the middle of the next week was when everything, from the college basketball tournaments to the wrestling tournaments, started to close down. So we have not played a game since the first weekend in March.”

Prospect Meadows has eight fields, with plans to add more. It was a complex financed (for around $15 million, by the time it’s all said and done) publicly and privately, with Perfect Game USA of Cedar Rapids its anchor tenant.

Weekend tournaments are supposed to be its staple, with local leagues being interspersed in there as well. Upper Iowa University even held an early March baseball series at Prospect Meadows because its field in Fayette was not ready for the season.

Turns out no one is ready for their season at this point. Actually, they’re all ready, it’s just those seasons can’t be conducted right now.

“We were expected to be pretty busy this spring on the weekends,” Roeder said. “There probably would have been anywhere from 30 to 40 teams per weekend. Then the local play would have started late March, early April. So from that standpoint, it sure is disappointing for us. But we also have to understand that this is unprecedented, and we really have to be more concerned with the health and safety of everybody. That’s kind of where we’re at right now. When you look at the big picture, we’re small potatoes.”

Roeder said the early reviews on the facility have been positive.

“For the most part we have had really terrific response from people that come out,” he said. “And that’s really a wide variety of people. Last year, I think we had visitors from 11 states represented here, as well as local people from throughout Eastern Iowa. So, for the most part, I think it has been really, really good. Of course, we’ve had certain complaints, but those are things you try and address headed into year two and year three. You are going to learn every time out with a new venture.”

He was asked how the complex is faring from a financial standpoint, considering its loss of spring revenue. He was positive, saying he hoped the effects of the pandemic would lessen as the summer nears, allowing Prospect Meadows to open.

“I think we’ll be fine,” he said. “What we have been doing is monitoring this on a month-to-month basis. Our performa gets tweaked quite often. We’re in the process now of looking at what happens now if we open up on July 1? What happens if you can’t open up until August 1? Right now, we haven’t looked past anything not being able to play past June 1. We’re working on some other scenarios. We just have to stay positive and hope that we are going to be able to play and (eventually) make up a lot of these games.

“I feel good. Of course, you are always worried and concerned about how long this could go on. But, at this point in time, we’ve got a real strong board, and everyone is really on top of it, working with our partners.”

He also mentioned there are questions how things will look once Prospect Meadows does re-open.

“We’ve kind of begun to look at all the different scenarios there,” he said. “Will people have to wear masks in? Will they have to have their temperatures taken? There is nothing set in concrete, yet, but those are things that we are looking at. We do have the advantage that we are outside, and, obviously, people can move about. They can watch the game from center field, watch it from the foul lines, which might give us a little bit of leeway there. But, again, we are most concerned about the health and well being of everybody.”

Roeder lamented the loss of business for Prospect Meadows for local businesses. That was a main selling point for the complex’s fundraising group when it sought public money to complete construction.

“That’s a lot of money that goes into the local economy, as we had projected a $6-million economic impact for the community in 2020,” he said. “So, the longer we are not playing, it means less people in the area restaurants, hotels, convenience stores and on and on.”

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