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Save the Legion Field

Solon Black and Orange Baseball to undertake improvements
Solon Black and Orange Baseball Club is embarking on a campaign to improve the Legion Baseball Field, including eventually improving seating. (photo by Doug Lindner)

New lights first for 50-year-old baseball field

SOLON– The Solon Black and Orange Baseball Club would like to light the night and keep the Legion Baseball Field in use for generations to come.
The club has an extensive plan for renovating the 50-year-old field, and is ready to embark on fundraising for an ambitious, multi-phase improvement project.
The Legion Baseball Field, immediately west of the Solon Public Library, occupies most of the Legion Park– also home to the Solon Veterans Memorial and the Johnson County Freedom Rock.
The land has been in use as a ball field since the mid-1960s, according to Solon American Legion Commander Jim Leland, shortly after the construction of Highway 382.
But the facility is in dire need of upgrades, claim Solon Black and Orange Baseball Club members Matt Messenger and Scott Stiegelmeyer.
Repair parts for the current lights are no longer available and the concession stand is no longer up to code. Both would be replaced as part of the overall project, and the club has hopes to eventually upgrade dugouts and fencing.
Most important, however, is to put up a new lighting system.
“We have multiple teams sharing one field,” Stiegelmeyer said. “Without lights, we can only get one game, or if you start early enough, two practices a night.”
Wednesday, June 21, was a perfect example, Messenger said. Rain came through and forced a doubleheader to be condensed into one game. With lights, play could have continued, he said.
When the current lights did work, they weren’t able to cover enough of the outfield for older competition levels, Stiegelmeyer added.
The Solon Community School District donated lights from the old football stadium for use at Legion Field, but the cost for needed electrical upgrades and installation would approach the price of new lights, he explained.
“We’re looking at long term,” he said. “We want this field to continue way past us.”
The donated football lights could maybe last 10 years, he said, but new lights (which cost $150,000) could last half a century.
The same can be said for the concession stand.
It’s not up to Johnson County public health code, so hot food can no longer be cooked and served there,
“We can only basically sell pop and candy,” Stiegelmeyer said.
The club hopes to tear down the existing structure and replace it with a new building that includes an indoor hitting facility at an approximate cost of $176,000.
The club hopes to bring the prices down by finding some local volunteer labor, but will also be hosting a number of fundraisers over the year, including a booth at Beef Days to raffle off some Cardinals-Cubs tickets, and a door-to-door campaign expected after the season concludes.
If possible, the club would like to replace fencing as part of the second phase, with an overhaul of the current field surface, dugout improvements, terraced seating and a new batting cage also on the wish list.

The field has been utilized for traveling baseball teams for a decade or so, under an arrangement established by Todd Linderbaum, Messenger said. After Linderbaum’s children aged out of the program, he recommended creating an organization to keep it going, Messenger added.
Previously, the club was informal, Stiegelmeyer noted, but now it’s an official non-profit organization with its own board.
The Solon Black and Orange Baseball Club fields youth baseball teams for 7U through 13U boys, with at least two teams of 11 or 12 kids per level. That keeps the field in use almost every single night during baseball season, which runs from April (or earlier, if weather permits) to mid-July, Messenger said.
“We take care of the field for the Legion,” Stiegelmeyer said. “They basically have given us the rights to do what we would like as far as facility improvements once they give the green light for each thing we come to.
“They want the field taken care of, they want the field used,” he said.
Tompkins Lawn Care has donated its services to maintain the field, Messenger added.

The first priority is the lights, and the club has set a goal of raising $150,000 in time to have the lights available for use in April 2018, Messenger said.
If successful, the group will be able to run more games each night, he said, and would like to try to open up a night for softball use.
“We know plenty of dads that have girls that play travel softball, and they have never once, maybe a couple of times, played a home game here in Solon,” Messenger said. “We would like to try and help fill the void a little bit.”
The City of Solon has helped alleviate the congestion at the field by renting the club fields at the Solon Recreation and Nature Area.
“We want community awareness first and foremost, just so people know where the need is,” Stiegelmeyer said. “You drive by here any night and this place is packed.”
It’s a real impact to the community, he said, especially on weekend tournaments which draw teams, as well as parents, to Solon.
Some targeted fundraising will be used to try to kick-start the campaign, and the club will couple the Beef Days raffle, the door-to-door campaign and a trivia night at the Legion with some outdoor advertising in the outfield.
For more information, search Save Legion Field on Twitter or Facebook, or email Messenger at matt@hltcorp.com.
Donations may be addressed to:
Solon Black and Orange Baseball Club
PO Box 314, Solon, IA, 52333