Goshen News, Goshen, IN

June 22, 2013

Baseball stadium in the works

Sports complex planned at former Farmers Market site.

By ROGER SCHNEIDER
THE GOSHEN NEWS

ELKHART — The former American Countryside Farmers Market along C.R. 26 will be purchased so a minor-league baseball stadium complex can be developed there.

Craig Wallin, president of CTT Communications, the company behind the stadium proposal, announced Friday the company has a purchase agreement with Waste-Away Group, which purchased the market at auction after it closed.

Wallin said the project has a $12 million budget, and he envisions the stadium being built 200 feet north of the farmers market building. The market building will be used as a clubhouse, vendors area and also be rented for special events such as wedding receptions, according to Wallin.

“We are going to keep the building the way it is,” Wallin said, “with some minor modifications, but use it as part of our baseball complex.” He said the working name for the building is “Stadiumplex.”

The 1,600-seat stadium will be home to the Elkhart County Miracle, a team playing in the Northern League of Professional Baseball. That league has been around since 1903, according to Wallin, but has been inactive for the past three seasons. The league has new ownership, according to Wallin, and is developing franchises in the Midwest, Canada and the East Coast for the 2014 season. The Elkhart County franchise is the league’s first announced venture.

Wallin said a ceremonial groundbreaking on the stadium will take place June 28 at 1 p.m. He said the goal is to have the stadium ready by the start of the 2014 season. But if there are delays, Wallin said, the team might have to play its games on the road until the stadium is ready.

“Hopefully we will break ground this summer and we will work real hard and get it ready,” he said.

This is the third iteration of Wallin’s dream of creating a baseball stadium and team in the county. Wallin had proposed the same stadium for a site near C.R.s 17 and 10 earlier this year, but county zoning officials rejected that plan. At that time the stadium would have hosted a summer college team. Several years ago he had hoped to construct a stadium along C.R. 17 near U.S. 20.

The architectural stadium plan proposed for the C.R.s 17 and 10 location will be basically the same at the farmers market site. He said the exterior bricks and seat colors will be changed to red to better match the look of the market building.

The market location was developed to handle large crowds of shoppers and should easily handle baseball crowds, according to Wallin.

“The county put in $4.5 million in infrastructure there in hope that whole development was going to survive and take off,” he said. “We are thankful for that. The sewer, lights and roads are all there for us. It is absolutely perfect.”

The players

The Northern League will pay players salaries of $500 to $8,000 per month, Wallin said. Each team will have a salary cap of $260,000. Dan Evans, former general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is commissioner of the league.

“I think that experience will help us on the field and help us with everything we are doing,” Wallin said of Evans’ involvement.

A unique aspect of the team’s fan-players interaction will be the creation of a host-family system. Wallin said the goal is to have local families host young players for a season. Married players and veteran players will likely have their own residences, Wallin said.

Local involvement

Fans at the ballpark will be able to eat food from Mattern’s Deli in Goshen, Wallin said. Mattern’s has been contracted to oversee the food service for the first season. Other local food vendors will also be involved, Wallin said. And there are plans to have a hog roast at every home game.

“I think the fans will simply love our menus,” Wallin said.

Other local ties are that the team’s logo was developed by Goshen College graphic arts students and local providers will be sought for other services, according to Wallin.

“As much as possible, we want to do everything local,” Wallin said.

Corporate and business sponsors are being signed up, Wallin said. Those sponsors will also sell tickets to games.

For information on the venture, people can visit the team’s Facebook page, which is Elkhart County Miracle.