Architect: Merchants Park solid, city should consider upgrades
February 12, 2013
The Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association recently named the historic Merchants Park as the winner of the State Diamond of the Year award — the second time Carroll has earned the honor. Carroll is the first, two-time winner of the award, which is now sponsored by True Pitch. Carroll also earned the honor in 2005. The coaches’ organization is 300 members strong. Carroll initially earned the Northwest Iowa sector honor from the coaches’ organization and went on to beat Cedar Rapids-Kennedy, Urbandale and Pella for the 2012 statewide honor. Pictured are (from left) Mayor Adam Schweers, Scott Parcher, parks superintendent, and Jim Molitor of Carroll, a longtime high school baseball umpire and booster of the sport locally. Merchants Park is the home baseball diamond for Carroll High and Kuemper Catholic, and the facility has also hosted semi-pro and collegiate games.
The West Des Moines landscape architect whose firm evaluated Merchants Park, the Carroll baseball stadium dedicated in 1949, said the facility "still has a lot of life left in it."
In fact, when pressed on how long the stadium could stand in working order, Craig Erickson of Shive-Hattery, said cement structures date to the Roman Empire. He said Shive-Hattery didn't even consider proposing an alternate plan of razing the baseball stadium and building a new one.
"With some love and care I think it's got a lot of life," Erickson said.
That love does come at a cost, though. Shive-Hattery's Carroll Stadium Building Condition Study, released to the Carroll City Council Monday night, proposes about $500,000 in improvements to the stadium, which seats 680 people.
Stadium advocates expect to raise some of the money privately with public money for the city-owned facility covering the rest. The council did not set a final split on the funding during a session Monday.
The primary work would involve the restrooms and the concession stands. Currently, the restrooms do not meet federal standards for disabled people, and the facilities are not large enough to accommodate larger tournaments. Options for the stadium include building larger restrooms in the addition to the southwest and moving concessions under the bleachers or placing smaller restrooms under the bleachers and remodeling the concessions in the current location.
Other work recommended includes:
- Refurbishing concrete risers
- Repairing concrete columns under the roof
- Repairing crumbling wall on the first base side
- Widening of stairs and addition of handrails in the center of aisles
- Adding eight spaces for wheelchairs, four each on opposite sides of the stadium. Having the seating at the ends of the stadium will limit the amount of walking traffic in front of the disabled and provide them with the best view possible of the games, Erickson said.
"It's a value judgment in terms of how you accommodate that," Erickson said.
- Replace planking in the dugouts
- Consider raising, lowering or leaving the dugouts at the current grade.
Carroll City Manager Gerald Clausen said the study is the first step in a process of recreating the nostalgia associated with the stadium.
The stadium is the former home venue for the Carroll Merchants semi-professional team which produced Major League players, notably the late Johnny Blanchard of the New York Yankees. The stadium also hosted state high school baseball championships.
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