West Fargo High School's new on-campus softball fields nearing completion
WEST FARGO—For the first time in program history, the West Fargo Packers softball team will not be calling Elwood Park home.
During more than 20 years of playing home games at Elmwood, the Packers went on a streak of 20 consecutive North Dakota Class A state softball championships from 1998-2017.
Both the Packers and their head softball coach Pat Johnson have a longstanding history with their soon-to-be former home.
"I played (men's fastpitch) there when I was a kid," Johnson said. "You kind of miss playing where you have over the years, but it'll be good to finally have something on campus to take pride in."
Johnson said the postseason action there was fun for the entire community.
"State tournaments were some great times at Elmwood," Johnson said. "Seeing all the people around there, it was the pride of West Fargo."
One of the driving factors to get new fields was the opportunity to have a facility right on West Fargo High School's campus.
"We've been using (Elmwood Park) for the last 21 years," West Fargo athletics director Jay DeCann said. "It's been a great field for us, but just to get our kids on campus and just try to get a facility that's ours was kind of a big deal, so we're very excited about this."
This update will make West Fargo's softball complex similar to that of rival West Fargo Sheyenne's.
"It's almost a clone of what Sheyenne has," DeCann said. "Our district is very conscious of trying to stay consistent with what facilities and schools look like on north side, south side. So we do have a (junior varsity) field, Sheyenne does not, but Sheyenne does also have a baseball field on campus, where we still play at the park district. So there's a little bit of a tradeoff there."
There isn't a set date as to when the project will be completed, but the varsity field is getting close. The press box, scoreboard, dugouts and backstops have yet to be completed. DeCann hopes to have it done by the first snowfall. He said if that happens, they can just open it back up when the snow melts and have it available when the season starts.
The process of getting the new venue started a little over a year ago. According to a school board agenda from April 2017, the estimated cost for the new varsity and junior varsity fields was $542,000. That number included cost of site grading, underground utilities, irrigation, lighting, pressbox, grandstand, dugouts and fencing.
Convenience was another driving force in adding on-site fields. Elmwood Park didn't have those elements and there was no on-site storage for the Packers to utilize. Portable fences, tables, chairs and a public address system all had to be transported, set up and taken down for each home game.
West Fargo will also be in charge of its own amenities, something they were unable to do at Elmwood.
"The nice thing is, now we'll have control over our restrooms, we'll have control over our concession stand," DeCann said. "(At Elmwood) if you have a baseball game and a softball game going on at the same time, parking can be pretty tough. So now we've got the whole parking lot out here, we've got a ticket booth, we've got concession stands, it's all here."
DeCann said many students are unable to get from the high school over to the west side of town where Elmwood is. Home softball games would apparently have a decent-sized crowd, but it mainly consisted of alumni and parents. The hope is that the new venue will draw more students to attend games.
DeCann is thankful that the decorated program will finally be coming home.
"We've got a good softball program that we're proud of," DeCann said. "The school board and district has been very gracious with the project and hopefully we'll have everything wrapped up here before the snow flies."