Even iconic stadiums eventually need a facelift, and that’s what Black Hills Sports, Inc. has in mind for Floyd Fitzgerald Stadium.
The home of Rapid City Post 22 American Legion baseball is in need of several upgrades, according to proponents of the project. Black Hills Sports, Inc. has submitted an application seeking $5 million from the Rapid City Vision Fund for the stadium on the west side of town.
“The bottom line is that Fitzgerald Stadium is 60 years old and it is in need of renovation,” said Roger Tellinghuisen, a representative of Black Hills Sports.
The application states the money could be distributed to the organization in annual installments of $1.6 million over three years. If approved, interim financing would be provided by private sources and construction would begin in the summer of 2019 and be completed in 2020.
Tellinghuisen said the stadium, originally built as Sioux Park Stadium in the mid 1950s, needs to be modernized to remain competitive.
“It’s a city-owned property and an iconic property for the city. Fitzgerald Stadium is known far and wide. We just need to give it the attention it needs, and it will go another 50 years probably,” he said.
Tellinghuisen and Post 22 manager Kelvin Torve both said a number of issues should be addressed — bathrooms that are outdated and likely don’t meet ADA standards, an aging concession facility, little cover for fans in the stands, and dugouts that fill with water after a heavy rain.
Torve played for the Hardhats from 1976-78. After playing college baseball at Oral Roberts, he went on to play for the Minnesota Twins and New York Mets. He also played professionally in Japan.
At one time, he said, Fitzgerald Stadium was one of the top 10 ballparks that he had played in as far as the beauty of the setting. Now, however, the stadium is falling behind the times, he added.
"Then you look behind you and it is something that is outdated," Torve said of the stadium's facilities.
He also said that if the improvements are done, it will reflect well on the entire community.
"It's not just for Post 22, it's for the fans. It's the fan experience and for the town of Rapid City. It has been an absolute jewel," Torve said.
The proposed construction includes five phases:
- Field and dugout phases: Remove existing structures and concrete, add new dugouts, earthwork and synthetic turf prep and landscaping/irrigation.
- Concrete stands and canopies phase: Remove existing structures and concrete, concrete area under seating, add five canopy structures, seats/bleachers and earthwork.
- Upper level entrance phase: Remove existing structures and concrete, concrete paving, fencing, concession building, bathroom, press box/store, add earthwork/synthetic turf prep and landscaping/irrigation.
- Training facility phase: Remove existing structures and concrete, add training facility and do repairs.
- Baseball field modification allowances: Install synthetic turf infield, synthetic turf outside and field lighting.
Black Hills Sports, Inc. believes a renovated Fitzgerald Stadium could also be used for soccer and football games and concerts.
"Most of the cities of our size or smaller have updated ballparks. Because of that, they can attract things that we can't," he said. "I would be curious to see what events we could host if it gets to the point that the infrastructure would support it. There is a number of things that will be improved that will enable more people to enjoy Fitzgerald Stadium."
It’s also a chance for the stadium, which hosted the American Legion World Series four times between 1975 and 2005, to have a chance to bring that caliber of tournament back to Rapid City.
"This would open the door for national regional tournaments," he said. "Those would bring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the community, if not more."
Tellinghuisen said Fitzgerald Stadium has been self-funded throughout the years and is expected to continue doing that, as well as enhance its ability and usability and bringing more people to town.
Black Hills Sports, Inc. is one 24 applicants for Vision Fund dollars that will be distributed over the next three years from a pot of between $18 or $19 million. The total cost of the applicant’s proposed projects is about $67 million.
The Vision Fund committee is expected to begin looking at the applications in November and start listening to presentations in December. Committee recommendations to the city council are expected in January.
“I hope that the committee, the council and the people of Rapid City take a step back and appreciate what this facility means to Rapid City,” Tellinghuisen said.
“It really is an iconic part of this city, the history of Fitzgerald Stadium; the kids who have gone through there, the fans who have been there. I think we may have taken it for granted for a long, long time. Now it is time to give it its due and give it a fresh look. It will continue to serve the city well again for another 50 years. It is a good investment.”