Tricounty News

Funding the Watkins Ballpark

A very different opinion

I would like to address the concerns of our mayor, Dennis C. Loch in his letter to the editor last week in our local paper.

It is true that the city of Watkins has been selected to host the 2015 Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Tournament. In receiving this honor, the city ballpark needs to have many improvements to bring it up to State standards. Thousands of hours have been donated and we have raised about $100,000 for ballpark improvements, but we are showing a shortfall of about $110,000 to complete the project. We have asked the city of Watkins to help cover approximately $60,000 for the grandstand. We will personally borrow the balance from a local bank to cover the rest of the shortfall and pay it back through fund raising and tournament revenues. I would like to reiterate, this is a city owned ballpark.

So … What is the $60,000 for? It is for the new grandstand that needs to be built. It is, after all, a city park. The city has a 20-year lease for only $1 per year, $20 for 20 years. All of the maintenance of the baseball park is donated by ballplayers and volunteers. The lawnmowers, equipment, gas, chalk, fertilizer, agri. lime, all paid for by the baseball association. All labor for upkeep, 100s of hours per year, all volunteer.

At Dennis Loch’s request, (to avoid making a decision at last month’s city council meeting), the city attorney was asked for his opinion on whether the city could use city funds to pay for the grandstand. His answer was yes, stating that the city can, and should spend city funds on upgrading its own park. I question if Dennis Loch gets such opinion letters from the city attorney every time city funds are spent on city property, remodeling or repairing the city hall (three times), fixing the city pool, repairing the water tower, etc., etc.

Nothing creates negativity and fear as the words … “Your taxes will go up for years to come,” which Dennis Loch likes to repeat over and over again. I notice he did not take out a full page ad for the city hall project, or the perpetual pool fixing, or the water tower, or any other project that uses city funds, warning that the sky is falling and taxes will be raised. At the last city council meeting, a council member said that there is no reason for the taxes to be raised on this amount of money. We even requested that perhaps $30,000 (less than 1 year of pool repairs) be paid toward the city ballpark this year and $30,000 be put into next year’s budget, these amounts would not and should not raise taxes at all.

Once this project is finished, Watkins will have a premier ballpark that will bring in thousands of people and tens of thousands of dollars into our community. High school home games are played at the ballpark, Little League, Babe Ruth and many more tournaments such as conference championships and regional tournaments that otherwise would not come to this community will make Watkins a destination for baseball players and baseball fans alike. Parents looking to move to a new community will look at what the community has to offer, the ballpark could easily influence families with baseball ties to move to Watkins, thus buying or building homes and starting new businesses.

I, just like Dennis Loch, encourage all to attend the council meeting on the 20th of March to voice your opinion. However, I would like you to encourage the city council to help with the new grandstand, and make Watkins a town with a long and rich baseball history, an even better place to live. Sometimes, Dennis, you need to look through the trees to see the forest.

Michael Lease

Watkins resident


Editor’s note: Letters to the editor are not paid ads.