Our view: Rally this week to help save ‘the Wade’More than 70 years after Works Progress Administration crews put up a ballpark using bricks tossed aside when nearby Grand Avenue was paved, that stadium — Wade Stadium, named for Duluth Dukes Manager Frank Wade after he died in 1953 — could be nearing the end of its useful life.
More than 70 years after Works Progress Administration crews put up a ballpark using bricks tossed aside when nearby Grand Avenue was paved, that stadium — Wade Stadium, named for Duluth Dukes Manager Frank Wade after he died in 1953 — could be nearing the end of its useful life.
But not if state Rep. Kerry Gauthier, DFL-Duluth, and others have anything to say about it. A list of about $8 million of immediate and necessary repairs and renovations has been compiled to save “the Wade.” This week could go a long way toward determining whether it gets done. The Minnesota Legislature is expected to finalize a bonding bill this week. A request for
$4 million for Wade Stadium is in play.
(The other $4 million would come from the city of Duluth via the sale of bonds paid for through a combination of park funds, user rents and reduced maintenance costs.)
“(Wade Stadium) is part of our history,” Rep. Gauthier told the News Tribune Opinion page yesterday. “If we don’t fix it soon we’re going to lose it.”
You can help make sure that doesn’t happen, Gauthier said. E-mail him today and tomorrow at email@example.com. He hopes to print out all the e-mails and use them as visual and emotional ammo in soliciting stadium-funding support.
He has an uphill battle. DFL-strong Northeastern Minnesota has been getting an expected cold shoulder from the Republican-
controlled Legislature. No project from Duluth was included in the Senate’s
$561 million bonding bill proposal released last week.
Other stadiums aren’t finding much support, either. That includes St. Paul’s hopes for bonding money to cover half of a $54 million stadium for the St. Paul Saints baseball team and other users and the Minnesota Vikings’ dreams of state help for a $1 billion football stadium.
“St. Paul is making their push for their stadium this week, so I think it’s time for us to be heard, too,” Gauthier said.
A fixed-up Wade would feature a new roof, lights, scoreboard, picnic area, entry, concession plazas, press box and seating. The project also would increase office space and replace the grass field with an artificial surface and new drainage system.
In addition to Duluth Huskies minor-league baseball games, the Wade is home to about 130 college and high school baseball games each season. Plus, there’s the occasional concert or special event.
“The Wade is one of the last remaining WPA stadiums in the nation and an important part of our city’s history,” Mayor Don Ness said in an interview with the News Tribune Opinion page Monday. “The stadium is in awful condition. The brick work is failing, the field has inadequate drainage, and the fan experience is lessened because of the condition of the space. Restoring the stadium is not only preserving a great historic structure, it’s also the fiscally responsible strategy. New minor league stadiums run anywhere from $15 (million) to $50 million.”
For just $8 million, the Wade’s expected useful life could be extended 30 to 50 years, the mayor said.
“With the state discussing a billion-dollar Vikings stadium and a $54 million St. Paul Saints stadium, a $4 million request to completely renovate historic Wade Stadium is a reasonable request for our city,” Ness said.
If only DFL-strong Duluth and Northeastern Minnesota could convince the
Republican-controlled Legislature of that.