DANVILLE — It might seem like baseball weather is a long way off still when seeing all the snow outside.
However, pitchers and catchers start reporting Wednesday for some Major League Baseball teams, including the Chicago Cubs and White Sox, for spring training.
Also, the Danville City Council approved a contract Tuesday night for work to be done at Danville Stadium, 610 Highland Blvd., as soon as the weather allows.
The $295,100 contract with McDowell Builders Inc. of Sidell is for exterior renovations to the stadium which will be celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
The stadium’s exterior siding and paint have deteriorated to the point of compromising the security of the facility and its aesthetic value, according to the city resolution.
The exterior siding materials and installation methods have been selected to compliment the historic ambiance of the facility. Specifications for the project were made available to interested vendors through the city’s website, according to city officials.
McDowell Builders’ proposal was determined to be in the best interest of the city, according to city officials.
The work will be paid from the city’s capital improvements budget. The city council approved a budget amendment, up to $300,000, coming from capital improvement reserves.
According to the city resolution, funds for the project were originally budgeted for fiscal year 2021-2022. To avoid scheduling conflicts, renovation work should start as early as possible to be completed prior to the onset of the summer baseball season.
Due to the work needing to start as soon as possible in March, the contract didn’t come before a city committee, but went directly to the full city council.
Danville Public Works Director Carl Carpenter said the contract is to replace all the exterior wood on the cap ends and around the three sides.
Carpenter said the city took proposals in different stages.
McDowell was the low bidder of three, with the others around $300,000 or over, including one bid from a Peoria firm.
Carpenter said the city has dealt with the lowest bidder on other projects and have been happy with them.
He added about the work, wood will be replaced in addition with a cement fiber board type material and substrate behind it.
“That stuff should last 35 years or so,” he said, adding that the look still will be forest green color like the stadium is today, and the materials will retain the historic look.
“It will look a whole lot like it currently does,” Carpenter said.
The work is expected to take two to three months, to get it completed before baseball season starts for the Danville Dans.
“It’s much needed,” said Danville Dans managing partner Jeanie Cooke, of the improvements.
Danville Stadium Inc. first renovated the old wooden stadium when it got involved 35 years ago, she said. The city owns the stadium and Danville Stadium Inc. and the Dans are the caretakers for the stadium.
“But the hot sun and the weather conditions in Illinois have really taken a beating on that stadium,” Cooke said.
The Danville Dans are scheduled to have a 2021 season. Its 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19.
Fans in the stands also are being planned for this year, but they don’t know how many yet, Cooke said, about making it a safe environment for everyone.
There will be several special events for the 75th anniversary, in addition to other celebrations for the Brooklyn Dodgers Major League club visit and also 35th anniversary of the Dans. A Jackie Robinson night is planned.
More information will be coming out, as early as this week, on the Dans’ season.
A historic baseball field called home by some of the game’s greatest players, including Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Duke Snider and Pee Wee Reese, the stadium has a new scoreboard and sod.
Danville Stadium was built in 1946 to host the Danville Dodgers, a farm team of the Brooklyn Dodgers. It remains one of the only stadiums left from that era. In 1947, Branch Rickey brought the Dodgers MLB team to play an exhibition at the stadium with a team that included Jackie Robinson, Peewee Reese, Carl Erskine, and many others.
Many visiting team players of note also played on the field, including Sachel Paige in 1961. The stadium has rostered more than 150 major league players or coaches.
Used as the setting for the ballpark scenes in the 1991 movie “The Babe,” Danville Stadium today is owned by the city of Danville and hosts local teams from area schools and organizations, as well as the Danville Dans, a collegiate summer team in the Prospect League.
About 11-12 years ago, paved parking replaced the gravel lot at the historic stadium. The city received a $300,000 state 2008 legislative grant for the parking and other repairs and improvements to the stadium.
The improvements included: parking and access improvements, structural evaluation and replacement of some flooring and seating areas, storm water work, replacement of outfield fencing and other related facility improvements.
Other improvements at that time included repairs to the substructure and installation of a new roof. City capital funding also partially paid for the improvements.