BY DEAN HOCKNEY
LAFAYETTE – Following the lead – and model – of Kokomo Municipal Stadium, the City of Lafayette announced on June 28 that historic Loeb Stadium in Columbian Park will be demolished and a new $16 million facility will be constructed. The long-speculated project will take a year to build, but once finished, will provide Lafayette with a multi-use facility for decades.
Lafayette Mayor Tony Rosarski noted that the public had a huge impact on the decision making, from a steering committee to 600 returned surveys to public hearings. He said the city listened to those suggestions when designing the stadium and he believes it will be an economic boost to the area.
“We are excited. This truly is an exciting time for Greater Lafayette,” he said. “Loeb Stadium and Columbian Park is woven into our history. The memories that have been made here – from baseball to horse shows to fireworks – are about family. And now we are looking to the future and how we can build new memories for people here in Lafayette and from around the world.”
The project, which according to the Lafayette Journal & Courier originally had a $10 million price tag one year ago, will be constructed to host baseball games and soccer matches, much like Kokomo Municipal Stadium. The orientation of the field will be rotated from its current format so that home plate and the front entrance will be at the corner of Main and Wallace streets. Construction of the synthetic turf stadium will begin in August 2019 and will finish one year later.
“The Kokomo stadium has been very successful,” said Roswarski, who noted that the two stadiums will share American StructurePoint as an architect. “We have learned from that. I had a great conversation with (Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight) and he gave me some really good pointers on what he would still do the same and what he might do a little differently.”
Dan McCloskey, senior project engineer at American StructurePoint, said the stadium will continue to feature a 1940’s art deco design to maintain a historical feel.
“We are going to use what is known as an open concourse design,” he said. “You will never leave the field of play when you go to the concessions or rest rooms. So, we will sink the field seven or eight feet. And on the site plan you can see the field is oriented for soccer as well.”
Loeb Stadium – opened in 1940 as the Columbian Park Recreation Center – has been the home field of Lafayette Jefferson High School and the American Legion Post 11 baseball teams since dedication day. The Colt World Series has called Loeb home since 1969 and the Lafayette Aviators of the Prospect League moved in for the start of the 2016 season. The construction timetable means all four entities will need a temporary home for the 2020 campaign.
“We have met with the different user-groups who use the stadium,” said Roswarski. “We have moved the construction schedule out enough to meet everyone’s needs.”
For the North Central Conference-member Bronchos, that means potentially playing an entire season on the road. But according to Principal Mark Preston, the more pressing issue is a practice facility.
“Jeff High School has had a long-standing relationship with the city and we have had a lot of conversion on how this will impact Jeff,” said Preston. “We will be displaced for a year, and it could require that we play a season on the road. But we need to find a place to practice, and we are working with the city to find a place to practice and we feel we will find a resolution to find a practice field for our baseball teams. We are excited about this opportunity and the long-term benefits will be worth it despite the one-year of inconvenience.”
The Colt World Series is already in discussions with Purdue University to host the tournament at Alexander Field. There was no word on what the Legion squad will do during its year away from Loeb.
The Aviators, sister club to the Kokomo Jackrabbits as they are both owned by ROC Ventures in Milwaukee, are currently weighing options – with one being taking an entire year off. ROC management told the J&C that a year-long sabbatical is a, “distinct possibility.” Unlike the Jackrabbits, which is currently second in league attendance at 1,461 per game, the Aviators have struggled to find a footing in the community (598 fans per game this year), thus the new stadium and its added amenities should be a boon for the program.
New Loeb Stadium will feature a suite level and 1,900 chairback-styles seats with estimated dimensions of 330-feet down left field, 400-feet to dead center and a short 310-feet with a raised wall to right. On-site facilities will also be built for a home and visiting teams – Lafayette Jeff and the Aviators will share a building with separate locker rooms. City administrators said the facility will be paid for with an Economic Development Income Tax and not an increase in property taxes.