FARGO – Light poles spring out of the prairie like a metal forest. Construction trucks of all shapes and sizes were busy doing their thing while several workers in lime green vests were directing traffic. Work on the new softball complex in north Fargo was at a fever pitch last week.
The $12.1 million project is expected to open next spring if growing conditions this summer are somewhat normal. And when the first games are played next year, consider this: The 13-field complex will be less than 50 percent capacity of its potential. Future expansion on the 160 acres calls for a total of 28 fields broken up into five pods.
Currently, the middle pod of eight fields and an arm of five fields are under construction, with the eight centralized fields being divided into four fastpitch and four slowpitch diamonds. The hope is to have all fields seeded by Monday, but the heavy rains in May are threatening to push that back.
And therein lies the biggest challenge in building a large complex.
"Weather," said Dave Leker, the director of parks for the Fargo Park District. "It was good last fall until it started raining, and then it just got cold and we were done."
Weather has also been a factor in the renovation of Mickelson Park adjacent to Jack Williams Stadium in north Fargo. The Park District is turning the four remaining fields from a flood control project into a girls youth fastpitch complex with 200-foot fences.
"That's going to be awesome down there," Leker said. "You don't have to worry about flooding, you don't have to worry about re-seeding, and the grading will no longer get screwed up from all the silt left from floods. It's the perfect setting for girls softball."
The Park District will probably switch its daytime youth baseball from Longfellow Elementary back to Mickelson next year when it's completed.
The mega softball complex will also help remove adults from the neighborhood fields and leave them solely for youth baseball and softball. It's being financed by a special assessment and general fund monies.
The main pavilion, which looks rather large from Interstate 29 between the County Road 20 and Harwood exits, is close to being finished. It will have a tournament room for fastpitch and slowpitch, an umpires' room for fastpitch and slowpitch, a Park District storage room, twin sets of bathrooms, a regular concession stand and a beer concession stand. A patio will have space if a tournament wants to bring in up to six concession trailers. The outer pods will have vending areas.
The two diamonds closest to the pavilion are designated as championship fields, so crowds can mill around the structure and watch a title game in either fastpitch or slowpitch. Grandstands from Mickelson will be reinstalled at both fields.
Plans call for between $75,000 and $100,000 worth of trees to be installed for next year.
"Once it grows up, it will be really nice out here," Leker said.