Pohlads give $2 million to new ballpark

Construction on the $7.5 million project slated for next spring.

The Pohlad Family Foundation donated two million dollars to the University of Minnesota for a new baseball stadium.  Gopher baseball hopes replace the thirty-nine year old Siebert Field by next spring

Joe Michaud-Scorza

The Pohlad Family Foundation donated two million dollars to the University of Minnesota for a new baseball stadium. Gopher baseball hopes replace the thirty-nine year old Siebert Field by next spring

by John Hageman

If thereâÄôs one thing Minnesota head baseball coach John Anderson learned from the success of TCF Bank Stadium last fall, it was, âÄúIf you build it, they will come.âÄù After years of starts and stalls, the baseball program is now closer than ever to bringing more fans back to a new ballpark on campus, with the announcement of the first major donation last week. Standing in the infield of the outdated Seibert Field last Tuesday, Anderson and athletic director Joel Maturi announced that the Pohlad Family Foundation will donate $2 million towards a new ballpark for the Minnesota baseball team, one they hope to begin construction on next spring. But before they can break ground on the new stadium, they will need to raise another $4 million on top of the $3.5 million they have already secured. The funds will be privately raised, with the athletic department donating $1 million from its general operating fund along with $500,000 given from various donors. Anderson said he hopes that, with the first major donor having come forward, more donations will follow. âÄúI believe this is going to inspire others to join the campaign andâĦto bring this new facility to reality,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúWeâÄôve had some other quiet conversations with others [and] we think there are some other people willing to step up.âÄù Once they raise the necessary $7.5 million, they will begin construction on the field and a 3,000-seat grandstand, with approximately $7.5 million more needed for amenities like indoor batting cages, locker rooms and a plaza on the south side of the field. The new park will be built on the same location that the 39-year old Siebert Field now stands and keep the same name, dedicated to former baseball coach Dick Siebert. Home plate will be pushed back to where the pitching mound currently sits to allow for bigger dimensions in the outfield. âÄúThis was built for wood bats,âÄù Anderson said of the current Siebert Field. âÄúYou get aluminum bats out here with some wind blowing out, itâÄôs like a little league park.âÄù The proposed plan also calls for a sunken field featuring artificial turf that will require less maintenance in the winter months. Maturi said that one of the major reasons the baseball team needs a new ballpark is because it doesnâÄôt stack up to other facilities around the country. âÄúI think this is the one facility that we have out of all athletic facilities that is under par in the Big Ten,âÄù Maturi said. âÄúAnd really, I donâÄôt know if we have a program that is more successfulâĦthan baseball.âÄù The baseball team finished first in the Big Ten this season, playing all of its home games at the Metrodome, where attendance was poor. Just 409 fans attended MinnesotaâÄôs final home game, an 8-1 win over Penn State. But like the football teamâÄôs move back to campus last fall, Anderson said he hopes the move will create a buzz around the program. âÄúI heard many people say, âÄòNow that we got [TCF Bank Stadium], we have to get your baseball stadium going,âÄôâÄù Anderson said. âÄúPeople found out how much fun it was to come back to campus in a beautiful new facility and enjoy athletics in a 21st century facility.âÄù Besides the fan experience Anderson hopes to create, he also hopes the new park will help the program recruit talent and not lose in-state players to national recruiting. âÄúIâÄôve always felt that you win with good people,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúBut I think you need a facility that represents the 21st century and thatâÄôs what weâÄôre after if we want to keep the best Minnesota kids here.âÄù Maturi hopes to have the ballpark ready by the start of the 2012 season, but admitted that itâÄôs an ambitious goal. For that goal to become reality, another $4 million needs to be raised so construction can begin next spring. But for Maturi and Anderson, it will be well worth the wait. âÄúWeâÄôve been fortunate in this community to build some wonderful facilities in the last couple of years, but nobody has waited longer than John Anderson and the faithful of the Minnesota baseball program,âÄù Maturi said.