Baseball league looking to 2017
     2016-08-12      By Jerry Purvis    news@geringcitizen.com
Lisa Betz-Marquez/Gering Citizen Construction is ongoing at the diamond adjacent to the existing regulation baseball field Diamod One at Oregon Trail Park this past week. The Expedition League is considering establishing a team in Gering that would use both fields. 
Gering is a step closer to the possibility of becoming part of a collegiate summer baseball league. Some of the details, such as scheduling and funding, were part of a memorandum of understanding is being considered by the city and representatives of the Minneapolis based Expedition Baseball League.

The league is divided into two divisions. The north division has teams in both North and South Dakota. The south division would include teams in Gering, Cheyenne, Casper, North Platte and Hastings. The organization is set up in a similar way to the professional minor leagues.

League officials have already said they’d like to start play in 2017. The Gering team would have a 32-game home schedule during the summer and another 32 road games. Teams will feature Division I and II college players, who would most likely be housed with local families for the summer.

“Playing in a summer league will give college players more experience,” said Gering Recreation Committee member Dan Smith. “It’s also an opportunity for major league scouts to take a look at potential talent.”

Gering has already planned the new baseball diamond before the Expedition League proposal came about. The field will be in Oregon Trail Park, east of the city’s swimming pool and north of the National Guard Armory.

Justin Allred, chairman of the city’s Recreation Committee, made a report during the city council’s Aug. 8 meeting. “We determined that sports tourism would be a perfect avenue for Gering to pursue,” Allred said. “It would impact our local economy with a potential increase in hotel, restaurant and fuel sales. It would also help build Gering as a top rated location for tournaments.”

Gering Parks Director Ron Ernst said work is already underway to level the playing field. He hopes they can get at least some of the sprinkler system installed before winter.

Ernst said the original design called for 310 feet long the right and left field lines and 380 feet to the centerfield fence. The Expedition League proposal is slightly different to meet league standards, requiring 325 feet to the foul poles. Centerfield would be the same at 380 feet.

“We’ll have to make the swimming pool parking lot across the street a lot bigger,” Ernst said. “The league also wants a lot more seating capacity, although I think they’d be happy if they could get 650.”

League representatives also want patio style decks for group seating, which wasn’t part of the city’s original plan. Restrooms would also need to be bigger to accommodate larger crowds.
The new baseball field wouldn’t be ready until 2018, so the first season of league play would be at the current Diamond One in Oregon Trail Park.

Ernst said the city plans to build deck seating along the baselines, which could be moved to the new diamond for the 2018 baseball season.

“Our left and right foul lines at Diamond One are OK, but the centerfield line is only 350 feet,” Ernst said. “We might put up a temporary net in centerfield for that season. That should get the league by for its initial year.”

Gering plans to spend about $2.1 million for a large field, several small ones, and more restrooms, and a concession area.

In all, the project would be funded over a five-year period.

In the meantime, discussions continue between the city and the Expedition League to work out all the details that would bring a team to Gering.

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