HANNIBAL | One year after the Clemens Field complex was flooded for much of the summer, the renovation of the historic ballpark is well underway.
“We got the field ready, but we don't have every area accessible right now,” said Aron Lee, assistant director of central services (parks), during the June meeting of the Hannibal Park Board. “There is work to do, but it (outlook) is real positive right now.”
“There is still a ton of projects going on down there,” said Andy Dorian, the city's director of central services.
One of the first orders of business was to get the playing surface ready for use.
“The field looks in great shape,” Lee said. “The staff did an awesome job of getting the field ready. There was a lot of time and effort on our part to get it ready.”
A focal point of attention in recent weeks has been the office/ clubhouse area that is located inside the stone wall in left field. Work is ahead of schedule in that location, according to Dorian.
“The clubhouse demolition was something we were going to hold off on until the fall, but the (parks department) guys have jumped in on it and the clubhouse is pretty much empty now,” he said.
“We have been rocking and rolling on that,” Lee said. “We have some ideas of what we would like to do with that space in the future.”
One proposal is to convert the interior of that building into a hitting and pitching facility. Such a plan would not only impact Clemens Field, but the Admiral Coontz Recreation Center.
“We would get a double use,” Dorian said. “We would have more use out of the armory (Admiral Coontz Recreation Center) and more use down there (in the Clemens Field clubhouse).
“There is not a lot of money that we will tie up in this and we will receive maximum output.”
One of the benefits of converting the clubhouse into a hitting/pitching facility is that it would be flood “friendly.”
“If it floods you just roll the nets up and call it a day,” Dorian said.
Dorian envisions having a hitting facility available being a very popular amenity of the ballpark.
“When we have tournaments it would be a good place for teams that are waiting to go in and hit,” he said.
Even without indoor batting cages Clemens Field is already gaining notice as a place where teams want to come and play.
“Clemens right now is highly popular,” Lee said. “We have a full slate of tournaments scheduled.
“We have had teams from as far away as Chicago, the St. Louis area and central Missouri, so they are from all over the map.”
The ballpark has been receiving sparkling reviews, Lee said.
“We have received a lot of good feedback, even from the individuals from out of town who play in the tournaments. They say great things about the facility,” he said.
The level of interest in playing at Clemens Field this year has surprised Dorian.
“We felt there might be a couple of games down there this summer, but we are hosting 40 and turning people away right and left,” he said. “I couldn't be any happier with Clemens. It has been way more than we expected with its use. This is kind of what we were hoping for.”
According to Dorian, the teams coming to Hannibal are helping bolster the local economy.
“Everyone was sad when the Hoots left, but all these teams coming in from all over the place, that is what feeds the economy. They are staying in the hotels, going places and buying things,” he said. “Next year things will be even better when we are able to have it (Clemens Field available for use) in April and May, as well as June, July and August.”