DANVILLE — We all hope we look as good as Danville Stadium when we reach our 70s.
But over the last few seasons, the old ball yard has started showing some signs of age.
The scoreboard, which was at least 25 years old, went out for the final time. It actually outlasted the company that made it.
The playing surface, which is the site for more than 100 games in a year, had a few blemishes on its surface.
So Danville mayor Scott Eisenhauer along the teams that call Danville Stadium home, including the Danville Dans, embarked on a campaign to not only extend the life of the home field for the Dans, Danville Area Community College, Danville High School, Schlarman Academy and Danville Post 210 through this year but for another 70-plus seasons.
“I wasn’t sure that I wanted to see Danterns walking through the Stadium again this summer with poster boards showing the score and inning,’’ Eisenhauer said. “And considering we have a business like Watchfire Signs right here in Danville it was just natural that we would reach out to them to design and manufacture the combination scoreboard/message board for the Stadium.’’
Additionally, Eisenhauer indicated at one time, the city was considering an artificial turf surface before going with new sod.
“We are still going to explore options in the future, but we needed to make a decision to make sure that we had the best possible playing surface for this season,’’ he said.
Danville Area Community College coach Tim Bunton, who has been a part of a team at the Stadium for more than 25 seasons, said it’s great seeing the facility getting the upgrades that it needs.
“The new scoreboard if beautiful and I think it makes the park pop a little bit,’’ said Bunton, whose Jaguars played the first two games this season at the Stadium on Wednesday. “And the city did a great job of dealing with our unusual spring conditions, getting the sod in here in March and getting it down.’’
But both Eisenhauer and Bunton agree that turf is probably a sound investment in the future.
“Right now, with five teams playing on the grass surface, we are limited in our opportunities to host events at the Stadium,’’ said Eisenhauer. “There are a number of youth baseball tournaments that could come to Danville. And depending on how we do it, we would also host concerts and other athletic events there as well.’’
Danville Dans managing partner Jeanie Cooke, who is also the Executive Director of the Danville Convention and Visitors Bureau, says their are economic opportunities.
“Bringing in the tournaments would be an economic boost for our area,’’ she said. “The people would be spending nights in our hotels and dining at our restaurants.’’
What Cooke appreciates the most about the upgrades is that all of them are sticking to historical aspect of the Stadium.
“When you look at the new scoreboard, it’s basically a replica of the old one but with a modern touch,’’ she said. “The plans also call for updating the outside of the stadium. The wooden structure has some areas that need some attention.’’
Eisenhauer admits there is a list of things that the city would like to do at Danville Stadium in the coming years.
“We want to do everything that we can to not only make sure that this Stadium reaches its 75th season, but we want it to survive another 75 years after that,’’ said Eisenhauer as 2020 will be the 75th season of baseball for Danville Stadium. “Currently on our list of things to do, is artificial turf, new locker rooms with a training room and new office areas, converting the current locker room into a museum of stadium history, to update the concession and beer stands and install new lights.’’
And the biggest hurdle for each of these projects will be fundraising.
“We’re going to need help through corporate sponsorships and public fundraising,’’ Eisehauer said.
Cooke acknowledges that the Danville Dans hope to use its position in the baseball community to help in those fundraising endeavors.
Danville High had its doubleheader with Peoria Notre Dame scheduled for Saturday postponed by rain.
The next game set for the Stadium is today as Danville Area Community College hopes to host Illinois Central College in a Mid-West Athletic Conference twinbill beginning at 1 p.m.
“Right now, the grass needs water to it can be in the best condition moving forward,’’ Bunton said. “It’s been tough on the spring teams, but we are all going to benefit from all of this work.’’