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Wade Stadium seeks renovation

Water drainage pipes under the field have corroded, creating a drainage problem on the field when the rain comes. (Photo by Tom Olsen)1 / 3
Harley D. Huskie high-fives a fan at the Huskies vs. the Waterloo Bucks game June 25. (Photo by Clara Hatcher)2 / 3
Fans and Huskies staff stand in front of Wade Municipal Stadium before the baseball game on June 25. (Photo by Clara Hatcher)3 / 3

Duluth's historic Wade Stadium was built 72 years ago from bricks torn out of the roadway of Grand Avenue in West Duluth.

In the past couple of months, many of the bricks have fallen back down to the ground.

Wade Stadium is home to the Duluth Huskies baseball club and hosts more than 100 games per year. But due to the structure's age and the lack of repairs made to it in recent years, Wade is in need of drastic renovation.

"The last time I remember Wade being repaired was when my son did work on the infield for a summer job about 30 years ago," said Duluth's Bill Taylor, who is hosting Huskies pitcher Burke Seifrit in his home this summer. "I would love to see the funding come through for the repairs; the stadium is a jewel in Duluth and it should be preserved."

The stadium is one of the last Depression-era Works Project Administration projects in Duluth.

Before the Huskies, the Duluth Dukes occupied the stadium, which was built in 1941. After the Dukes left Duluth for good in 2002, the Huskies took over and made Wade their home turf in 2003.

Along with gaining a field to play on, the Huskies gained some loyal fans.

"I've never missed a Huskies game in my life, and the only game I've missed at Wade Stadium was back in 1996 when the Dukes played," said Huskies fan Joe Garson. "I'm really focused on getting the outfield fixed. Three to four years ago there were no problems like this at Wade, and the wall falling a few months ago is just another sign of the deterioration happening in the stadium."

Michael Rosenzweig, one of the owners of the team, said the Huskies would like to see the ballpark brought back up to where it should be. Work needs to be done in the outfield, on the fences and on

the drainage pipes underneath the field.

Minnesota state Sen. Roger Reinert sought funding for Wade in the state bonding bill during the Legislature's 2013 session, but the term came to a close last month without any stadium allocation. Reinert says it remains a priority for next year.

"I am a point person in this Legislature and I am going to be pushing to get the stadium the money it needs for repairs," Reinert told the Budgeteer. "I'm going to charge for the full amount when we request the bonding bill again in 2014. I feel very optimistic about the process; we have fought before and we will certainly fight again."

In order to get a bonding bill approved for projects such as the renovation of Wade Stadium, there needs to be a local match for the amount of money requested as well as regional significance for the project.

That could be a challenge, said Duluth Mayor Don Ness.

"We are hopeful and feeling pretty confident about the state's willingness to support this project, but we have a pretty significant challenge of coming up with the money locally to match those state dollars," he told the Budgeteer, noting the structure is much larger than a typical minor-league baseball stadium.

"After decades of deferred maintenance the scope and cost of renovating it is very high, so that becomes our challenge," Ness said.

Even if Wade repairs don't prevail in next year's bonding bill, Rosenzweig says he and co-owner Andy Karon will keep the Huskies in Duluth.

"Unfortunately, if we don't get the funding, we will continue to limp along," Rosenzweig said. "The ballpark has sort of been on a city wishlist for a couple of years now and I hope that everyone realizes that we do care about Wade Stadium and we would love to make sure baseball stays alive in Duluth."